Four volunteers who go above and beyond to deliver our services
31 May 2016
Maisie was just 14 years old when Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, changed her life forever. She was at a school assembly when excruciating shoulder pain made her believe she was having a panic attack.
She said: “So I sat down at the matron’s office and I couldn’t stand back up again. It happened so fast.”
The 16-year-old spent several months of intense rehabilitation at Sheffield Children’s hospital, where she first came across Back Up. Maisie was interested to know more about how Back Up helps people with spinal cord injury, so she decided to attend a wheelchair skills training session.
“Before meeting Back Up I was very conscious about people staring at me, but Back Up got me out and about.”
After being discharged from hospital, Maisie stayed in touch with Back Up. She went on a youth course and became one of Back Up’s youth advisors, driving and shaping services for children and young people with spinal cord injury. Maisie is also a wheelchair skills trainer, using her skills to empower others to live more independent lives.
Recently, one of Maisie’s friends took on a wheelchair challenge to understand the everyday struggles she faces and celebrate our 30th anniversary. “Doing the challenge opened up her eyes to how hard it is to get out and about and go around school,” she said. This fundraising challenge raised vital funds for Back Up.
Being a Back Up young volunteer helped Maisie to get out of her comfort zone and learn new things. “Back Up is amazing and I’m so grateful.”
Become a young leader to drive, shape and deliver services for other children and young people with spinal cord injury.
In 2010, a rugby accident left Kevin permanently paralysed. It took Kevin a while to adjust to life with spinal cord injury, but Back Up showed him that he was still able to do some of the things he loved.
“One of the factors that was key to my adjustment was a ski course to Sweden which challenged me and showed me what I was capable of if I was willing to push the boundaries.”
After the ski course, Kevin wanted to give something back by helping others in a similar situation. He first got involved with Back Up through mentoring and then as one of our first school advocates. As a school advocate, he has helped two children to go back to school after a devastating spinal cord injury.
Returning to school after spinal cord injury is hard. The personalised support Kevin provides to students has a positive impact on their school
“It’s nice to be able to help others and I have had feedback from people telling me that I have had a positive impact on their lives. Volunteering also gave me confidence to return to education and gain a PhD, which led me to pursue a new career as a psychologist.”
Recently, Kevin was also involved in one of our major fundraising events, the City Dinner, where he gave a moving speech about his injury and how Back Up helped him to rebuild independence.
As someone who became more positive after volunteering , Kevin thinks other people with spinal cord injury could also benefit from getting involved with Back Up. He encourages everyone to do so.
Become an education advocate and help children and young people with spinal cord injury to be fully involved in school life just like their friends.
Michelle first got involved with Back Up when her son James, who has a spinal cord injury, went on a youth course in 2006.
“To see how his confidence and independence grew as a result was amazing. The courses he went on with Back Up really allowed him to feel in control of his own life.”
Since then, Michelle has volunteered on 12 courses, including our first ever Arts, Crafts and Horticulture course and the City Skills course for over 50s. These courses help people like her son James to rebuild their confidence.
She also has helped us to raise vital funds to keep on delivering our services. In 2014, Michelle stood at a train station with Kim Bowler, raising awareness of the work we do. She also cheered on our runners at the London Marathon.
“Back Up really filled a gap for us when my son was injured.”
“Volunteering on courses has been great as every one is so passionate about passing on the information and helping each other to find their own way of doing things and it has given me a sense of purpose to see this happening.”
Become a buddy on one of our life changing courses.
In 2008, a motorcycle accident left David permanently paralysed. Following his rehabilitation, David decided to attend a Back Up course. The course showed him what was still possible.
He said: “The course gave me the kick I needed to get out and try whatever I could.”
After the course, David was invited to become a wheelchair skills trainer, which meant he could give back to Back Up and help those newly injured. “I jumped at the chance because I knew how the sessions had benefited me,” he said.
David has delivered over 40 wheelchair skills sessions across the country and has also given presentations at spinal cord injury centres to newly injured patients.
“Being a wheelchair skills trainer gets me all over the country and seeing the difference in the participants at the end of the session gives me a sense of achievement and makes me feel that the journey was worth while.”
David plans on being a volunteer for as long as he can and encourages everyone with spinal cord injury to do the same. “It gets you out and shows you what is still possible,” he said. “You also meet lots of friends.”
Become a wheelchair skills trainer and teach vital skills to people with spinal cord injury.