Luke’s story: Gaining the confidence to live independently at university with a spinal cord injury

Luke is wearing black sunglasses and sitting in front of a lake, he is smiling and looking at the camera

Luke, a 21-year-old “computer nerd” was born with spina bifida, which causes symptoms similar to L3-4 incomplete spinal cord injury.

“I love building computers – it’s a passion of mine,” Luke says. “I’m going into my third year of university in September, studying computer security and forensics.”

“When I was 16, I went to the Calvert Trust, and the chef there mentioned Back Up to me. I love all activities the Calvert Trust runs for people with disabilities, so initially I saw the Back Up ‘Multi Activity’ course as a way to be more involved with the Calvert Trust. But then, when I got involved properly with Back Up, I loved it.”

“When on the Multi Activity course, I can remember seeing how other people like me get around and live life.”

“I saw someone transferring in and out of a car. And if they could do it, I knew I could do it someday too – and now I can.”

Becoming more independent

“From there, I went on the ‘Moving Forwards’ course, which taught me I could actually get by in the kitchen. I didn’t realise that I could cook – my mum and dad had always cooked for me.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Gordon Ramsey, but I can get around the kitchen now! That course is a big part of the reason why I can cook for myself at uni.”

“Using the oven? I didn’t think it was possible. That course showed me it was.”

“Being able to meet and talk to other young people on the course was brilliant too. My biggest worry was the people – would they be easy to talk to? Would I get on with them? Will they be standoffish? I haven’t come across that at all. It’s a community and everyone looks out for each other.”

Growing in confidence

“I teach wheelchair skills with Back Up, and it’s great to meet others with a spinal cord injury. It’s such a profound experience teaching newly injured people. The best bit is seeing how much people get out of it.”

“When learning to be a wheelchair skills trainer, I was worried about messing up. But you’re paired up and they will always be able to guide you. One of Back Up’s wheelchair skills trainers and I talked about our strengths and weaknesses and worked as a team.”

“I’ve learned so much through teaching wheelchair skills. It’s made me more confident. Things I didn’t realise – like if you go quickly towards a curb, you can bounce up it. When you teach these skills, you’re always picking up new techniques yourself.”

“My advice to others thinking about getting involved with Back Up is to try it once. You’ll get the Back Up bug. It’s a bit of fun – especially the Multi Activity courses. They’re a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t forget.”

We’re so happy to hear how our life-changing courses helped Luke in further education. Learn more about our support services for children and young people with a spinal cord injury.