Clair’s story: A milestone challenge

Meet Clair:

– A clinical psychologist with 28 years experience in the NHS
– Lives with her husband, her 11-year-old daughter, and their small dog
– Will soon be taking on a challenge to raise funds for Back Up – The Push

When someone sustains a spinal cord injury, their life changes in an instant. 25 years ago, Clair was injured while travelling.

During a two-week trip through South Africa and Namibia, Clair and a friend had a road accident while driving through the Namib Desert. Their car rolled from the road into a riverbed. Clair’s friend was able to get out and flag down assistance – but the accident caused permanent damage to Clair’s spinal cord.

The impact of Clair’s injury was not immediately apparent. She had sustained head and lung injuries, and needed to be on a ventilator. After five weeks in hospital, Clair returned to the UK for rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville spinal cord injury centre. Here, the life-changing extent of her injury began to sink in. She found herself wondering what life would be like once she eventually left the hospital.

“During my rehab at Stoke Mandeville, I spent a lot of time trying to get my head around what had happened. From the beginning, I was very focused on getting back to work in the NHS.

“For me, rebuilding my life and identity meant getting back to work. To do that, I needed to realise that I was still the same person I was before my injury. Back Up was a big part of that.”

Clair’s first introduction to Back Up was through our courses service. We offer a range of confidence-boosting courses, designed to help people with a spinal cord injury realise their true potential.

A friend of Clair’s was a keen skier, and discovered our sit ski course while researching spinal cord injury charities online. This led to Clair reaching out to Back Up, and she registered for one of our Multi Activity Courses.

On Back Up Multi Activity Courses, participants take part in exciting outdoor activities, such as kayaking, abseiling, zip-wiring, and much more. For Clair, the course helped her see what possibilities were ahead after spinal cord injury.

“Without a doubt, the best thing about Back Up is the network of people that you meet. There’s always someone who has gone through what you’re experiencing, or has done the things that you want to do post-injury.

“You can’t put a price on the support Back Up offers. It is invaluable.”

Clair went on to be keenly involved with Back Up. She joined us for a sit skiing course, and later became a volunteer group leader. Significantly, Clair also lent her expertise to help develop our mentoring service.

Now, Clair is looking to take on a milestone challenge for Back Up. 2024 brings some significant moments for Clair. It marks her 50th birthday, and 25 years since sustaining her spinal cord injury. To celebrate, Clair and a team of friends and family will take part in The Push – Back Up’s toughest fundraising challenge.

The Push is a race where teams, each including one wheelchair user, climb the tallest mountain in Wales – Yr Wyddfa – to raise funds for Back Up’s vital services.

“As of April this year, I crossed the boundary where I have now lived with my injury longer than before I sustained my injury. That feels quite significant, and The Push is my way of celebrating that!

“I’ll be able to take on a big challenge, climb a mountain, and raise money for the charity that helped me get to where I am.

“I believe that Back Up truly saves lives. It allows people affected by spinal cord injury to get back to living life to the full, and instills self-belief that anything is possible.”

Learn more about The Push on our website here.