Paul’s story: “#10@10For10”

Back Up Champions

Paul, who is taking on his #10@10for10 for Back Up

We spoke to Paul, who is taking on “#10@10for10” – a challenge to support our life-changing services on the ten year anniversary of his spinal cord injury. He will be walking ten miles along the Jurassic Coast to a target of £10,000 for Back Up, Designability, and Spinal Research. Read on to learn why he is taking on this challenge…

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Paul. I am aged 53. I live near Bath, with my wife Ali and my children, Amy (who is 15) and Max (who just finished his A Levels). I retired early on health grounds 18 months ago, and I’m occupying my time in many ways. I’m a trustee of Designability and looking for other trustee roles. I’ve taken up some online learning, including psychology. I’m also spending a lot of time on exercise, therapy, and wellness.

A fun fact is that last November I started online drawing classes. That was my first art class for 40 years – lo and behold, I can actually draw!

How did you sustain your spinal cord injury?

It was a cycling accident in June 2011 while living in Singapore. I was out exercising before work. I wasn’t going at high speed and no one else was involved. The moment of the accident is blocked out from my memory, so I’ve never been able to recall exactly what happened – but my guess is that the front wheel of my bike went down a drain cover. I must have flown over the handle bars and landed on my head. When I regained consciousness in the gutter I couldn’t move, at all.

I sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury at C5/C6/C7.

What was the impact of your injury?

Over time I regained most of my sensation and independence. I still live with chronic nerve pain and difficulties managing my body temperature, as well as my bladder and bowels. My injury also creates daily mental battles and psychological challenges.

People with an incomplete injury who can walk have different needs and experiences compared to wheelchair users. At the same time, our lives are very different from non-disabled people. We can find ourselves floating in the middle.

How did Back Up support you?

I joined Back Up’s 2019 Next Steps course for people with a spinal cord injury who can walk. That was my first experience of Back Up’s services, and it was superb. This course was a chance to get together with other people with similar experiences and share what we go through and what we have learned. We gave each other counselling, support, and encouragement. We laughed a lot and cried a lot. We have all kept in touch ever since. I feel like Back Up helped me find my tribe.

Why do you want to give something back?

I want to do what I can to help other people who are living with a spinal cord injury. I feel a responsibility to use my good fortune and the things I have learned to make a difference to the lives of others.

The work Back Up does appeals to me. I like its focus, approach, and the culture. I’ve decided to use my challenge to also support two other charities: Designability, which creates and provides products that enable disabled people to live with greater choice and independence; and Spinal Research a charity funding medical research around the world to develop life changing treatments for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. These three charities sit together well, in my mind.

Tell us about #10@10for10

29 June is the ten year anniversary of my injury. I want to commemorate it, and reflect on how it changed my life. I also want to celebrate my achievements since then, and all the support I’ve had. To mark the ten years, I’ve decided to walk ten miles along the Jurassic Coast to Golden Cap, the highest point on England’s southern coast.

For me, walking ten miles will be a real stretch. I’m expecting, based on my training, it will take more than seven hours. It will be far from a breeze, but I am feeling highly motivated. I’ll have a group of 15 or more friends and family with me, and so will have lots of support and encouragement.

Why do you think fundraising is important?

It’s always important to fundraise for charities. Right now so many charities are going through a tough time due to the pandemic. Fundraising is crucial, and I want all three charities I am supporting to come out from the pandemic stronger.

So much is dependent on income generation, and a lot of that is individual giving.

What advice would you give to someone else thinking of doing a challenge for Back Up?

Gather people around you. The bigger the challenge, the better it is to have motivation, support, and encouragement from family and friends.

We are delighted that Paul is taking on #10@10for10 to support our vital services. You can learn more on his fundraising page here.