Katie’s story: Life as a young person with spinal cord injury


Research found that adults with spinal cord injury who were injured in childhood are less likely to live independently. However, with the right support, young people can live happy and fulfilling lives. Here, Katie, one of Back Up’s youth advisors, answers to a few questions about challenges she faces and how Back Up has helped her to adapt to life with spinal cord injury. 

As a young person living with spinal cord injury, can you explain what independence means to you? 

It means doing things on my own like anyone else my age would do and showing that I’m not incapable because I’m in a wheelchair.

What is the biggest challenge you face in order to be fully independent?

I experience a lot of pain and fatigue. I struggle sometimes to get around on my own and I need someone to push my wheelchair, carry my things or drive me places. I also experience anxiety – a lot of the time I’m too anxious to do something without someone there or doing it for me.

Do you think your friends (without spinal cord injury) are more independent compared to you?

Yes, I think they are. They tend to travel further afield and do more things than I do. When planning to go away, they seem to be okay to travel alone, whereas for me it takes a lot of planning and help from parents to ensure everything is there.

How has Back Up helped you to rebuild your independence?

Back Up has really helped me to regain independence. On my first Back Up course, I relied on my parents for everything. I didn’t do anything on my own. Within the week, I learned to do more by myself. When I came home my parents were amazed at the change in me. Since then, I have gone on weekend with Back Up, volunteered and stayed in places on my own. Without Back Up, I wouldn’t have done any of that.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m not really sure what my plans are. But I want to work with children or in a setting where I can help other people, as well as continuing to volunteer.

Back Up is the only charity with dedicated services for children and young people with spinal cord injury. You can find out more about our work here