Cerith’s story: supporting people affected by spinal cord injury as a Back Up mentor
28 January 2021
We spoke to Cerith, a Back Up volunteer mentor, about how he helps us transform lives affected by spinal cord injury.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m Cerith and I live in Wales with my family. At the moment I am kept very busy chasing after my two year old son.
How did you sustain your spinal cord injury?
I sustained my spinal cord injury when I was working as a builder. I was climbing down a wet ladder that hadn’t been properly fixed to the building. I fell off and landed on a piece of scaffolding on the ground.
What were the main struggles you faced in the early days?
The biggest struggle for me was frustration. I felt very frustrated with myself, I wanted to learn everything quickly, such as transferring from my wheelchair, and was frustrated when I didn’t master everything straight away. This frustration would sometimes lead into anger and then feeling down.
How did you encounter Back Up?
Someone from Back Up used to visit the ward when I was in hospital. I used to talk to him about his personal experiences with spinal cord injury. If he didn’t know the answer to a question he would find out for me. Nothing was too much for him!
I also attended wheelchair skills training as an inpatient. Those sessions were brilliant, they taught me what was possible as a wheelchair user.
What services did you make use of?
I went on a Back Up Multi Activity Course at the Calvert Trust in Exmoor. This course showed me I could do things I thought would be impossible after spinal cord injury, like canoeing and abseiling. I also had the chance to develop my wheelchair skills even further. It was a good laugh, and it really helped being around other people with a spinal cord injury.
How did Back Up help?
Aside from wheelchair skills and the course, I often used the website for information. Looking back, I probably could have benefited from having a mentor myself.
What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I wished that I had asked for a mentor when I was newly injured. I want people to benefit from my experience and help others.
What do you do as a volunteer?
I become a mentor in January 2020 and have volunteered throughout the pandemic. It has been an eye opening experience and has made me realise how different people are. It has also taught me to tailor my approach to suit the individuals I am working with.
What do you like about volunteering with Back Up?
I enjoy being able to talk to people and help them overcome situations. I like it when people use me as a sounding board and come to their own solutions as to how to overcome a problem. When people start mentoring they can be unsure and unconfident, when you get a few calls in you can feel a change in people’s energy and hear that they are gaining in confidence.
What advice would you give to a newly injured person now?
To remember that anything is still possible, you can still do everything you want to or used to do. I used to think there were things that I would never be able to do again, and now I know its all possible, even if I might have to find a slightly different way. You can still achieve what you want to.