"Before my injury I was as ‘fit as a fiddle’. I loved cycling, I cycled everywhere. I was dead outdoorsy; I loved rock climbing, mountain biking and anything like that. I never stopped."

He was cycling home from work one day when he realised his bike's gears weren’t shifting properly and before he knew it he was buried in to the back of a van. Ian says: “It was just pure lack of concentration. I just remember looking up at the black sky and the stars, not really sure what had happened. As a cyclist I’d been knocked off my bike a few times before so I think we were all used to me just getting straight back up. But when I realised I couldn’t I knew something was different.”

The accident caused Ian to sustain a spinal cord injury causing paralysis in his arms, hands, trunk and legs.

Whilst waiting for a bed at Southport Spinal Centre, he suffered two heart attacks and a collapsed lung. It was then he realised that he was probably never going to be able to do what he used to do. He says: “I could barely move my arm after months of physio, let alone walk again. It started getting me really down, and I got really depressed. I thought, ‘Life isn’t worth it’. Even after all of the work I put in during physio and everyone doing their best to help. I just wasn’t ‘me’ anymore. I was always the one helping out family and friends and was totally independent. All of a sudden I’m not and everything’s been reversed.”

Ian found his injury wasn’t just a big adjustment for himself, but for his family as well. “My family would constantly try to help me in any way they could but I was just getting sick of it. I know they weren’t doing it intentionally but they were treating me very differently, treading on egg shells. And when everything else has changed in your life, you just want some familiarity. I think I said to them at some point, just treat me like normal.”

"It’s given me a lot more independence, because although it’s a lot slower nowadays, I can communicate and socialise again, and actually have control over something.”

Once Ian was out of hospital he stayed in an Aspire bungalow and applied for an Aspire Grant to help him purchase Assistive Technology. He says: “When I found out my grant was successful it was amazing. The equipment I got to help me with the computer has been amazing. I use it all the time. It helps me do all of the normal things in life like socialising and shopping and all sorts. I can communicate with people again and I use Skype and I even use it to talk with my sister in New Zealand! I can go on Facebook now; it just makes socialising so much easier. You have no idea how much more independence I have just for having this one bit of technology. It allows me to get all the important stuff done as well, like online banking which means I don’t have to rely on someone else doing that for me. When it’s something that important, you want to do it yourself because then you know what’s going on. It’s given me a lot more independence, because although it’s a lot slower nowadays, I can communicate and socialise again, and actually have control over something.”

Ian regularly goes back to Southport as an Assistive Technology volunteer to help teach people with Spinal Cord Injury how to use the technology. Ian says: “I go to chat to people, give them a bit of support and just be someone that they can relate to. It can get so lonely when you’re in hospital, so just to have someone come and ask how you’re getting on can make the world of difference. When someone comes round that you know will empathise and have a chat, it puts you at ease. You can talk about whatever you like and you don’t have to explain the ins and outs because they already know. I really enjoy doing all that; it gives me a sense of purpose.”

"That’s all you have to do, find different ways of just being yourself."

“I’ve still got a life, a good life. There was a time where I didn’t think I did. But you’ve got to look on the bright side. I can still communicate with whoever I want, I can socialise. I can still wind everyone up; it’s just what I do! I’m still the same person. It took me some time to figure out, but you can’t afford to be depressed. It will just make everyone else around you suffer and no one will want to know you. It even affects your health if you let it but I can still contribute and I always have a laugh.

"I still need help with things, I always will. And there’s a part of me that will never stop apologising, for everything. But everyone just tells me to shut up now so I still wind them up just in different ways! That’s all you have to do, find different ways of just being yourself. I think independence is knowing and expressing what you can and can’t do. And if you can do that while still being yourself, you’ve made it.”

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