From injury to realising what is now possible Motorbike enthusiast Michael sustained his spinal cord injury whilst racing at a local event. Throughout his rehabilitation Aspire's Independent Living Advisor at Southport helped open his eyes to what was now possible. “Since I can remember I have always been into sport and mainly extreme sports. From the young age of six years old I began playing rugby league for a local team, Leigh East. Every Wednesday and Saturday my Mum and Dad would take me to training and every Sunday they would drive me all over the North West to play a game. Rugby League was a massive part of my life as a youngster and I still value the lessons that it taught me today. As I grew older I began to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and fell more and more in love with motorbikes. I would finish rugby training on a Saturday and be begging my Dad to take me on my motocross bike as soon as I was home. “When I turned 12 years old and was old enough race dirt bikes, I made the difficult decision to give up playing rugby and go and follow my absolute passion. Again, with the full support of my Mum and Dad I raced my bike all over England every weekend. I had quite a lot of success, winning various races and championships over the years and making some fantastic friends along the way. In 2012 along with two of my best friends, I was selected to represent Great Britain in Europe visiting seven different countries. It was a very proud moment. We spent the year driving thousands of miles, just the three of us, racing against the rest of Europe - a dream come true for us all. “In July 2013 I entered a local race, no different to the hundreds of others I had done. In the first race I had a crash and went over the handlebars. As I tried to get up I realised I had done something serious, not being able to feel the lower half of my body. I was attended to by St John Ambulance staff until the air ambulance arrived. From the track I was taken to hospital where our worst fears were realised. I had broken my T6 vertebrae leaving me completely paralysed from the chest down. “As I lay in the hospital bed I had hundreds of thoughts going around in my head; will I ever walk again? Would I ever be able to socialise properly again? And more importantly, could I ever ride a bike again?” “After my operation I was transferred to the Southport Spinal Injury Centre to begin my three month rehabilitation. It was here that I met one of Aspire’s Independent Living Advisors, Dave Cope, a man who had answers for the million questions that I had. Dave came over to my bed and straight away we had common interests so I found him very easy to talk to and very helpful with the questions that I had. Being able to talk to somebody who has been through what you're going through makes such a big difference. He showed me that life really doesn’t have to be that much different just because I am in a wheelchair. Doctors and nurses can help to a certain extent, but having someone who you can send a text message to or even ring for advice, which I still do with Dave, is invaluable. During my three months in hospital Dave was always someone who I felt I could ask advice from or ask a question – he was almost more of a friend than just someone who was working at the hospital. “Being able to talk to somebody who has been through what you're going through makes such a big difference.” - Michael and his girlfriend at the Aspire Sports Quiz Dinner Manchester “In November 2013, I finally left hospital ready to discover life on wheels. With the help of some good friends I would go out regularly socialising and, despite the odd time having a few too many drinks and having to be lifted back in to my wheelchair after falling out, I was having a great time! Although feeling a little bit different at first, I quickly realised that everyone I spoke to would be really positive towards me and couldn’t do enough to help. “I enjoyed going out regularly with my friends but I felt like I was missing something. I knew I couldn’t race bikes so after a bit of research decided that the closest thing would be karting. With the help of my Dad we converted a kart to hand controls and began going to a few local circuits. I was loving being back on a track and even entered a few races. After a few months though I was getting bored, the kart was not quite filling the hole the bikes had left. It was then that I began looking at what else I could do, and to my surprise I found a charity that helps disabled people get back on bikes. I booked on as soon as possible and before I knew it was invited down for the day to have a go. From the minute I got back on a bike I knew that this was what I’d been missing so badly. “After having a chat with the instructor, I realised that it was even possible to race road bikes in the UK as a paralysed rider against non-disabled people.” “I bought myself a bike soon after, which again my poor Dad had to adapt, and began racing. I stayed in contact with my instructor from the bike charity who told me that there is an annual race for disabled riders from across the world to compete in. In 2016 I entered this race which was in Mugello, Italy, some 2,400 mile round trip. With the help of a few small businesses and friends we managed to fund the trip. With my ever supporting Mum and Dad, we drove the long 1,200 mile trip there, not knowing what to expect. To my amazement I actually managed to win the race, earning myself the title of the 2016 600cc Seated World Champion. This was an immensely proud moment for me and my family. In 2017 I competed in the race again, this time in Le Mans, France where I managed to retain my title. “Since leaving hospital I have also gone back to work, another thing I never thought I would be able to do. At first I had thought I would enjoy not having to be up early and being at work all day, but I soon realised that sitting at home isn't for me. I have been back at work for three years now and in the last 12 months my boss and good friend Craig has decided to give me a Director’s role in our small scrap metal business of five employees. “Since being paralysed I have done so much with my life that I never thought possible lying in that hospital bed four years ago. Looking back now, I honestly believe Dave played a massive part in my achieving these things as he showed me what was possible at the very early stages, when I knew nothing about my injury. I am totally happy in my life as it is now and I have to give a special thank you to Aspire for giving us people like Dave Cope in our hour of need to show us what is possible from somebody who has been there and done it. People like Dave and charities like Aspire play a vital role in the lives of spinal injury patients and from personal experience I know the work they do is fantastic.” “I am totally happy in my life as it is now and I have to give a special thank you to Aspire for giving us people like Dave Cope in our hour of need to show us what is possible from somebody who has been there and done it.” Click here for more information on Aspire Grants Have you had an Aspire Grant? Share your story with us! Help others like Michael and fundraise for Aspire.