Rae’s story: Paying it forward

Meet Rae  

  • Loves go karting and racing 
  • Life coach and motivational speaker 
  • Now a Back Up mentor and has completed marathons! 

Since we supported Rae after he sustained a life-changing spinal cord injury, he has gone on to complete some fantastic milestones. From volunteering with Back Up to winning the inaugural “Lenny” award on BBC Children in Need! Back Up was there to help Rae when his mental wellbeing was low, and we’re thrilled he has gone on to pay it forwards. Read on to hear Rae’s story in his own words.

April 2017 was when I knew my life had to change. I was obese and getting bigger, providing for family first and not looking after myself. I was playing with my kids in the park and I couldn’t keep up. My kids jokingly said I needed to get fit – kids have habit of telling you things without a filter – so I knew I had to make a change.  

After losing some initial weight, by September 2017 I was using a bike that had been gathering dust in my garage. I was cycling to the gym near my house, without a helmet, and found myself going too fast down a hill. I clipped the curb and I went flying over the handlebars. I can still feel the air whooshing past me as I landed with a thud. That is when I realised I couldn’t move anything.   

I started to panic. My first thoughts were how would I get to the gym, let alone home. A few minutes later a lady came to help. I was incredibly lucky that she was a nurse, and could recognise the signs of a serious injury. She called an ambulance, and at hospital they found I had a cracked skull, a brain bleed, and damage to my spinal cord at the C3/C4 level.   

During my time in hospital, my wife was so tired from travelling to see me and looking after our children, who were 5, 11 and 12 at the time. I was used to supporting my mum and sister after my dad passed away, so not being able to do that was another worry and anxiety for me. Looking at my children and paralysed in a hospital bed, I just kept thinking “What kind of father am I going to be now?”.  

As a husband, dad, son, brother,  the last thing you want is to put your family through more hardship. You want to be the rock for the family, not the one who is being looked after. So I told my family to stay at home and look after themselves. The team at the hospital would look after me.   

I went for spinal rehab at Stanmore spinal cord injury centre, which is where I met the Back Up team. They were so important for me back then. Back Up showed me that there is life to be lived again outside of a hospital bed. Seeing what everyone was capable of really spurred me on.  I was the main breadwinner for family – getting back to work was a major concern for me. I wanted to find out the different ways that I could work again.  

One of the reason why Back Up were so important for me was because they helped me understand that there is help out there. They not only helped me, but helped my family to process everything that was happening. I love how the Back Up mentoring service brings people together, helping you learn from others with a similar experience. Having someone who really understands tell you it’s OK to feel the way you do, really helped me and my wife.

“Having that kind of support is something I’ll never forget.”

It’s so easy to be frustrated about what we can’t do. It’s human nature. But I remember being in the hospital and seeing someone get out of bed and go to the toilet by themselves. At the time all I could do was move my toe – the whole concept of moving your whole body like that seemed like a million miles away.  And I thought to myself, if I could just do that, that would be enough. When I get up now, all I think about is that moment and how I’ve been blessed with a second lease of life.    

Now, I’ve been a mentor for about a year or so. I’ve recently been paired with someone who is in a similar situation that I was in. It’s really interesting to speak to someone now that I’m on the other side. It’s helped me realise how far I have come.  I was feeling the same emotions that they are now. I’m going into companies to give talks, help educate people about spinal cord injury and what support is out there.  This is why I want to help – It means a lot to me.  

I want to be able to pay it forward and give back to people who have helped me, spread awareness and raise money to help others. Don’t take the ability to move for granted. You never know what’s around the corner. Never give up. Keep pushing and keep striving to be the best version of you. It might not be who you were before, but you’ll find your new life. Don’t focus on what you can’t do but on what you can do. Keep positive and stay strong.

We’re glad that our services helped Rae and his family – and it is great that his efforts were recognised on BBC Children in Need this year! Visit this page on our website to discover how you can get involved too.

Photo credit: BBC Children in Need