When I woke up on 17 March 2012, I was fit, well and able-bodied. I never imagined the horrors that were about to ensue. By lunchtime, I was in an air ambulance being air lifted to a trauma unit because I was too badly injured to make the journey by road. I had been hit on my bicycle by an overtaking driver who hadn’t even bothered to stop to check whether I had survived. I had broken my back in two places, five ribs, my nose and cheekbone, and damaged my eye socket and spleen. I had lacerations and extensive bruising. My cycling helmet was cracked, punctured and dented. Better that than my skull. Later that day, I was told I was paralysed; although I already knew it. I had known from the second that I came to a stop at the side of the road after flying through the air, clinging tightly on to tiny blades of grass, as if that would somehow save me. “Don’t worry about your face”, they said. My face was mashed up and pouring with blood, but I couldn’t feel any pain there. “I’m not bothered about my face”, I replied. “I can’t feel my legs!” “What, not at all?” “No.” That’s how it was for me and for thousands of others like me – everything you have taken for granted your whole life snatched away in an instant. I had to re-learn everything, down to the basics of getting dressed and going to the toilet. Life is never the same again.
Since then, people who know me will understand what a determined little cookie I am. I was driven to make something positive come out of the most horrendous thing that ever happened to me. I lost my job as a social worker, but I started volunteering with newly-injured people with spinal cord injuries; mentoring and teaching wheelchair skills. I tried just about every adaptive sport it is possible to try, and in 2014 I became an elite athlete; competing for Great Britain in Paratriathlon from 2014-2018. I have been the British Champion for the past four consecutive years (2015-2018), I was European Champion in 2016 and I won a Silver Medal at World Championships in 2016 and a Bronze in 2015. I reached the dizzy heights of World No. 1 in the rankings in 2016 and was twice nominated for British Triathlon Female Paratriathlete of the Year. I competed for Team England at Commonwealth Games in 2018. I also competed for Great Britain in Paracanoeing at World Championships in 2015 and 2016.
I have decided I want to give back to Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) by doing something incredibly scary and exhilarating. I am going to jump out of a plane and do a tandem skydive!
Every 8 hours another person could be hearing the news that they might never walk again due to a spinal cord injury, and SIA want to be there to make sure that they can support as many of those as possible; to show that there is a life after spinal cord injury.
It is estimated that over 1000 people in the UK are injured or diagnosed with a spinal cord injury (SCI) every year, meaning that as many as three people a day could hear this life-changing news, and currently there is no cure. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury, but as well as those people, such injuries also have a massive impact on family and friends.
From the moment of injury and throughout their lives, SCI people, their families, friends and colleagues want expert advice and support, but often they don’t know where to turn. The Spinal Injuries Association shows people that they are not alone, and that with the right support and advice a fulfilled life is possible.
The news that you may never be able to walk again, or even have control of basic bodily functions is devastating. SCI people, their families and friends will also have to come to terms with the psychological impact of sustaining such an injury, which affects every aspect of their own lives, and of those closest to them.
Alongside others with disabilities, SCI people have to face inequality and adversity, inaccessibility and discrimination; all of which make an incredibly tough situation even tougher.
SIA provide many different types of support and advice to people affected by spinal cord injuries, to help SCI people live independent and fulfilled lives:
- A peer support service: Trained members of staff (all with personal experience of spinal cord injury) help newly-injured people from the moment of injury or diagnosis either in major trauma centres or specialist spinal injury units across the UK (as well as providing advice to people with established injuries facing new challenges in their daily lives).
- An advice and advocacy service (which receives over 1,800 calls a year) to guide and support people with all aspects of living with a spinal cord injury, providing information across a range of subjects including specialist rehabilitation, welfare benefits, care needs, employment matters and social life.
- SCI nurse specialists: For those SCI people who may not have access to a specialist NHS Spinal Cord Injury Centre for rehabilitation, who are reliant on care in general hospitals and do not receive the essential expert care they need to enable an independent life.
- Campaigning: SIA also actively campaigns for equality for SCI people, and they reflect the views of the SCI community to Government and other decision makers at a national level. SIA are at the forefront of the fight to secure fair funding for those with the greatest care needs, campaigning hard to make sure that every SCI person has access to high-quality rehabilitation, and a package of care required to live a full life.
SIA’s mission is to show the world that spinal cord injury isn’t the end, but it’s a new beginning. They do not receive any government funding, so rely on the generosity and kindness of supporters. Every penny you donate will help make a vital difference in the lives of spinal cord injured people. Thank you.
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