Paul, a dentist and fitness fanatic, sustained a spinal cord injury after falling through the stairwell in his home. Aspire was able to provide accommodation for him after he was discharged and also gave Paul a grant for the wheelchair accessory that now helps him live as independently as he does.

I’ve been a dentist for nearly 30 years and have owned two dentist surgeries since 1995. I come from a long line of doctors and GPs so I knew quite early on that I would pursue a medical career and dentistry gave me the opportunity to have a have a life outside of the surgery. I’ve always been a massive fitness fanatic – I would go to the gym twice a day, I would cycle everywhere. I pursued loads of sports and really enjoyed them. I also loved playing guitar.

I can’t quite remember what I was doing at the time of my accident. All I know is that my wife heard a thud caused by me falling through the stairwell. At that point I’m not sure what was going through my head.

I was in hospital for nine months. It was hours from home and wasn’t easy for my family to get to. Christmas that year was so hard. It was a really lonely experience, being in the ward and hearing the nurses having a bit of a celebration at the end of the corridor. I chose not to celebrate Christmas last year – I think I am still emotionally scarred from that experience.

The time came to have a group discussion about my discharge from hospital – I’d already had a hoist and other equipment delivered to my house, ready for my return home. I wasn’t going to be able to have a wetroom installed so it would be a case of being bathed in bed but to be honest I was already having this done in hospital so there was no change there. It came to my wife’s turn to speak and she basically said that she wasn’t prepared to have me move back home. I need 24 hour care and she couldn’t come to terms with the fact that complete strangers were going to have to be living in the house alongside our family. It came as quite a shock but looking back I can now understand where she was coming from. Being quite a private person I understand how difficult it would have been for her. I ended up being stuck in hospital for another six months. When it finally came time to leave hospital I was gearing myself up to going into a nursing home. It was a home specialising in caring for neurological patients, most of whom had very severe learning disabilities. It would have been a pretty tough environment. My physical needs would’ve been taken care of but it would’ve killed me. The Aspire house has literally been the difference between life and death.

Paul and family

"I absolutely love it, I’m so happy here. It’s only in hindsight that I realise how badly I was cared for in hospital."

The house is all set up for me with all that I need, from a full wetroom to a lift to access the upstairs of the house. The lift is great. I don’t feel excluded from any area of the house. It’s great for my mental health. You can feel extremely vulnerable when you’re in a wheelchair.

Cooking and eating good food is also one of my pastimes. I’ve always been the main cook in the family. I’ve got a bit of French in me so that seems to come across in my cooking a little. I obviously can’t cook myself but I’m able to instruct my carer in what to put together, I love looking for new and interesting recipes to try out. Right now I’m into Oriental cuisine. 

Paul and a family member at the table

I know that with my injury there is no way that I can manage to live without care and support. At first there were issues. I had to get used to the fact that there was going to be someone living with me who would be around all the time. I had to lay out my expectations from the outset. It gets better once you reach some kind of status quo. They begin to know you much more than your family does. I am no longer able to fend for myself and recognise I need the support. The Aspire house is definitely part of that. I have nothing but praise for Aspire, only heartfelt gratitude.

I was also able to apply for a grant through Aspire for some e-motion wheels for my wheelchair. They’ve been a Godsend. Rather than relying on a power chair, I can still use my manual chair and the e-motion wheels allow me to move around more independently – I wasn’t able to do this before so they’ve made a world of difference. A power chair just seems to make me look more disabled. I’m always out and about in town. I just like being able to get out and about and chat with people. This was something I lacked and missed when I was in hospital.

Paul outside the Aspire House

Being able to go back to work has been part of my rehab. I’m not able to do the hands on work but I’m able to work on the management side of the business. I think having a purpose and having something to do is brilliant. It’s actually made me realise about how little I thought about accessibility.

Living with my injury was very difficult to start with. I had no choice but to navigate a new life. I realise that by having good care and having somewhere nice to live, my life is better than some. Life post-injury is my second chance.

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