From injury to getting his wings back Since being a part of the school cadet force, Jerry was fascinated by the air force. His career soon gained momentum, taking him through RAF cadetship to attend RAF College, completing basic training, flying with 43 Squadron (The Fighting Cocks) during the first Iraq war, Desert Storm, and saw him become an integral part of over 30 combat missions over his career. He also later became an instructor on the Tornado and flew the DC3 Dakota and Lancaster with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. On leaving the RAF in 1997 Jerry joined the holiday company, Airtours, and converted to flying Boeing 757’s and 767’s, gaining his command in 1999. It was during a rest period in Cancun in November 2007 that Jerry sustained his spinal cord injury. Jerry was swimming in the sea when a strong wave knocked him over breaking his neck and leaving him face down, drowning and unconscious. A passer-by immediately sprung to action pulling him away from the water and resuscitated him. He was taken in to intensive care and was put on a life-support ventilator. Five days later he was flown back to the UK where he started his 22 month stay in hospital. Jerry was paralysed instantly on the beach and his life wouldn’t be the same again. He was left with no feeling or movement below his chest with limited movement in one arm. He started rehabilitation at Southport Spinal Injury Centre where, after six months, he used a computer for the first time after the accident. “I wasn’t much of a fan of computers before my injury to be honest”, Jerry says. “I’d never use it just for fun but mainly used it as a business tool”. As part of his back to work route Jerry used a variety of assistive technology with his occupational therapist. It was essential that he had computer equipment that didn’t require arm, wrist or finger movement, but that he could also use independently without assistance form his carer. Jerry says: “I always thought I would have had to use some sort of touchpad system if I ever wanted to use a computer. I tried lots of different options but the most satisfactory and best option for me and my level of injury was the Integramouse. It meant I could control the mouse with a puff and blow action on a mouthpiece attachment.” “I also trialled Dragon voice recognition software which didn’t work well in hospital with all the background noise but now I think it is a powerful and effective tool.” Jerry spoke to the Independent Living Advisor at Southport Spinal Centre who suggested that he should apply for an Aspire Grant to help fund the equipment as both parts were very expensive. “…so I applied. I even used the assistive technology at the hospital to download the application form!” “The process was very quick and the equipment was delivered to my house before I even arrived to live in my home permanently.” Jerry was able to get back to work when he returned home. “I can now use a computer like a non-disabled person and it has helped me get back to work. Aspire has made a huge difference by providing funding for my new equipment.” “I use a combination of both the Intregramouse and Dragon software together and set myself a couple of tasks to do each day, exploring all the facilities so that I can learn more about the equipment and then see what I can do with it. That way I can use it to full effect and not find the technology so daunting and intimidating.” Since going back to work Jerry has set up his own website, www.jerryward.co.uk, with the help of his neighbour . He says: “I now use the equipment to update the website quickly and with ease. I wouldn’t have done something like setting up my own website before I got my injury.” Click here for more information on Aspire Grants Click here for more information on Assistive Technology Have you had an Aspire Grant or help with Assistive Technology? Share your story with us! Help others like Jerry and fundraise for Aspire.