Back Up impact report 2020: Tess’s story

2020 impact report

Tess, who we interviewed for our impact report, using a ski kart in sweden

Read Tess’s story from our 2020 impact report and learn how our ski course helped her rebuild confidence and independence after spinal cord injury.

I was taking a shortcut home after school when I sustained my injury. I fell down a flight of uneven concrete steps near an old railway path close to my parents’ house. I was finishing off my A-Levels and had a course space to start a qualification in adult learning in the September. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take the space.

I was treated in a general hospital, rather than a spinal centre because I have additional health problems and a genetic condition which makes my bones more flexible. This made it difficult initially to diagnose the full extent of my injury as there were multiple traumas but no clear fractures. It was the waiting that made having an injury that more difficult to adjust to in the beginning.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the specialist rehabilitation offered in spinal centres and so lost out on the human interaction found when talking to others in a similar situation. This was really difficult, but I was determined to adjust positively to my injury. I watched YouTube videos to learn specific wheelchair skills, such as how to transfer safely and found support by taking part in local sports.

I first met Back Up by reference from Spinal Injuries Association. They gave me a leaflet on wheelchair skills. I waited until I was out of hospital and contacted Rockwood spinal centre to join a session. I also visited the website and read about their courses. It took a couple of years for me to think about joining a course, but I knew the skiing course in Sweden would be the one for me.

The course was amazing! I was an avid skier before my injury, and the course reminded me that it is still possible to be as good, or even better at something as before my injury. I found I could ski again, just in a different way. Sit skiing has given me so much independence – I was able to go as fast as I liked, and could do as many runs as I wanted. When I was first inured I found I couldn’t do anything on my own and there was a time I thought I never would. This new found confidence has allowed me to go back to university to study medical sciences. My interest in biology hasn’t wavered since my injury and I am thinking what my next career step will be.

Organisations like Back Up challenge the perceptions of what’s possible. They give you the opportunity to try new things you might not have thought of beforehand. They support everyone who needs it and nothing is ever too much. Back Up have given me the opportunity to still get out and about and I am so grateful.

Read the rest of our impact report stories here and discover how we transform lives affected by spinal cord injury.