Joseph’s story: Finding my confidence in returning to work after spinal cord injury

Joseph in his wheelchair with his dad slightly bent down next to him, looking at the camera smiling

“My name’s Joseph and I’m 30 years old. I live with my dog, who’s a cockapoo. I like baking, going to the theatre, and going for walks with my dog.”

“I sustained my injury in 2011, during a horse-riding accident while working at a summer camp in America,” Joseph explains.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it’d happened. I didn’t know how I could live my life being paralysed.”

Discovering Back Up

“At some point I had a check -up appointment at the hospital. While I was there, someone from Back Up reached out to me,” says Joseph.

At Back Up, we help people and their families to rebuild their independence after a spinal cord injury. We often meet newly injured people in hospitals and spinal cord injury centres and chat to them about how we might support them to adjust and live life to the full with spinal cord injury.

“I did the Multi Activity course at the Lake District. Going away with loads of strangers seemed really daunting.”

“I was really nervous because I hadn’t stayed away from home since my accident.”

“But when you know everyone is in the same situation as you, it makes it so much better. We did kayaking, sailing and wheelchair skills – it was amazing!”

“I then went on the sit-skiing course in Sweden and I’ve been to a few Back Up Balls.”

Employment after spinal cord injury

“I actually did the Skills for Work course about five or six years ago in Manchester, but I wasn’t in a great place personally and it didn’t feel like the right time to get a job. But after going to that, I later got an email about the Back Up Careers Fair. I thought I’d go for it, even if nothing came from it.”

“Before my accident, I was a horse-riding instructor, I used to take people on hacks around Richmond Park. After my accident, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”

“I’d never had an interview before, so I was worried about what that would be like. It was great doing a mock interview with someone and talking to the interviewer at the fair.”

I got the job!

At the careers fair, I met someone who used to work for Back Up who now works in recruitment. He put me forward for a job with good looking accessible bathroom specialists Fine & Able. I got an interview, and it obviously went well because I got the job!”

“I had a lot of self-doubt, and realised I should be more confident in myself.”

“I always thought an office job would be so boring, just sitting at a desk all day. But I’ve changed my mind completely. I really love it! I do a few days at home and a few days in the office. I love my time in the office, talking to and meeting new people and because my role is all about helping other disabled people to get their dream accessible bathrooms, I get an extra buzz out of being able to share my own lived experience when chatting to prospective clients.”

“I was a little worried about my time management before starting the role, as I know a lot of people with spinal cord injuries struggle with their bowel and bladder. If you have to do a bowel and bladder routine and then shower, it can sometimes take longer than expected. But I’ve got a good routine now, getting up early to give myself plenty of time before I start work. Now I actually enjoy waking up early, even on my days off!”

“I was also worried about having a bladder accident at work, which happened recently. Thankfully they were completely fine with it. I went home to get cleaned up and changed, and then just worked from home. I think any company would be very understanding about this.”

“If you’re thinking about returning to work after a spinal cord injury, go into it being open-minded. I’d definitely recommend going to the Back to Work Careers Fair. Book mock interview sessions, speak with recruiters, get advice on your CV and take lots of notes.”

“If you’re looking to go on a Back Up course, just do it. When something like this happens to you, you feel very lonely and unsure about what you’ll be able to do. I’ve done so much I never thought I’d be able to do. And they gave me confidence to go out in public on my own.”
What have you got to lose? I’m really glad I did.”

“A few months ago I had no idea what I wanted to do for work. Now I’ve got a job I love, and they’ve just offered me a permanent contract!”

We’re delighted that we helped Joseph reach his goals after spinal cord injury. Find out more about our services here.