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Every day this summer, six people will be injured or diagnosed with a life-changing spinal cord injury – it could happen to anyone, at any time, through something as simple as a road traffic accident, a sporting injury, or a fall.
Back Up supports people in hospital with their transition home and offers wheelchair skills training, mentoring and courses to help people rebuild confidence and independence after a spinal cord injury.
Our courses are returning this summer… but now we face the huge challenge of supporting both newly injured people and also helping those who missed out on this vital support last year.
Bel, 19, was one of those lucky enough to experience a life-changing course before the pandemic. She discovered that adventure was still possible with a high-level spinal cord injury on one of Back Up’s multi activity courses…
Before her injury, Bel was a typical outgoing and bubbly kid. She loved sports and playing with friends around her cul-de-sac. This suddenly changed when, aged eight, she fell off a climbing frame, leaving her with a C2 level incomplete spinal cord injury.
I was in hospital for around nine months, but because of my age I was very naïve about my injury. I didn’t understand what had happened.
Adapting to life after spinal cord injury is a challenge. For children and young people, it can be even harder. Bel had to adapt to using a power chair to get around, and her breathing was assisted by a ventilator. Fortunately, Back Up was there to support Bel after her injury. Our team reached out to Bel while she was at the National Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Stoke Mandeville, and showed her what was still possible after spinal cord injury.
Back Up are here whenever people need us, be it days after diagnosis or years later. Bel decided to get involved with our life-changing services a few years later herself. Aged 13, she came on one of our multi-activity courses in the Lake District. This was Bel’s first chance to try out new and exciting activities as a power chair user, and to meet other young people with a spinal cord injury.
On this course I was able to try things I thought would be impossible, like adaptive abseiling, canoeing, and orienteering. This was one of the first times I went out alone after my injury, and it gave me so much confidence. Back Up proved to me that I could go out without my parents and manage independently.
The confidence Bel got from this course has helped her live life to the full, but just as important was meeting other people in a similar situation. Knowing other people with a spinal cord injury through Back Up has helped Bel boost her confidence and achieve her goals. She is currently studying psychology at university and is loving the independence that comes with living away from home. Through the community of Back Up service users and volunteers, Bel discovered it was possible to still study after spinal cord injury.
Back Up gave me the confidence to go to university and cope with the challenges of living in a new city. Speaking to Back Up was reassuring and knowing other wheelchair users who had been to university definitely showed me that my goals were achievable.