Will’s story: Living confidently with a spinal cord injury

Services, Independence

Beaming with optimism, 28-year-old Will reflects on his life so far – and how he managed to keep living confidently after sustaining a spinal cord injury.  

“I’ve got a really positive attitude, and I think that helps,” he says, referring to his spinal cord injury. “It’s just one of these things that happened, and it’s changed my life, but it’s not made my life worse.” 

Will was in Turkey when he sustained his T11 complete spinal cord injury. “I was on holiday with my mates. I fell down some stairs and dropped onto the concrete floor below.” 

“When the doctor asked me to move my feet at the hospital, I thought, ‘Yeah, no problem’. In my head, my feet were jumping about. And because I could move my core, my legs were actually moving.” 

“I had surgery the next day. When I was medically fit to fly home two weeks later, the last thing the doctor said to me was that I’d make a good recovery. So I was in fairly high spirits because at this point, I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t walk again.” 

“When I was transferred to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, the consultant said, ‘You’re very unlikely to walk again.’ Just eight hours prior, I was told I’d recover well. That was a tough one.” 

Learning a new way of life 

“Honestly, the hardest part was when the continence specialist told me how to manage my bladder and bowel with intermittent catheters and bowel management. My first question was: ‘When will I get back to normal?’ thinking it would improve. It was clearly not the news I was expecting or wanted to hear.” 

“She said it was normal and I’d go on to lead an independent life, but I really didn’t really believe her at that point. I was horizontal. I couldn’t even grab a glass of water, let alone think about having an independent life.” 

“My physio told me about Back Up, and someone came in and talked a bit about what they do. I was really interested in the activity course in the Lake District. I couldn’t imagine being able to do the activities they advertised. If they could help me do these really cool extreme outdoor activities in a wheelchair, then I was keen to do it!” 

Regaining my independence

“The activity course was brilliant. On the first day, we went up a massive hill – never did I think I’d be able to get up a dirt track with nobody pushing me! I was surprised at how much I could do independently.” 

“I learned so much from the other people there. To get advice from people about stuff that you wouldn’t talk about necessarily with non-disabled people – sexual function, bladder and bowel stuff – that was brilliant.” 

“The wheelchair skills I learned in the course I use every single day. When I go to work, there’s a curb, and I can just bump up it now without thinking.” 

“The course gave me confidence that I could lead an independent life.” 

“And that’s why I’ve applied to become a wheelchair skills trainer for Back Up. I got so much from it, so the least I can do is give something back to other people.” 

“I’m really lucky. I’ve got great support and a positive attitude, and that’s helped. But I appreciate others might not be feeling so positive, and for them, life might be hard right now. So if they can come on a Back Up course, it could change their life.” 

“Back Up don’t get the credit they deserve – they’re just life-changing for people.”

Back Up is here to help everyone affected by spinal cord injury live life to the full. If you are seeking support for yourself or a loved one, check out our range of services here