Matthew broke his neck when he was only 25. He was young, fit, healthy, and had just began his career as a research chemist living in San Francisco. He was injured playing rugby and was instantly paralysed him from his chest down. Matthew immediately realised his life would never been the same again.

Matthew was rushed to hospital and it was soon confirmed that all four limbs as well as his bowel, bladder, chest and abdominal muscles were all affected by the injury.

“I went in to denial for a period,” Matthew says. “I refused to believe I was disabled and I completely refused to call myself a tetraplegic.

“I remember how devastated I felt when the consultant told me that I would not have any use of my right hand again. I knew that without the dexterity of my hands my time as a research chemist, and career I wanted, was over before it ever really began.”

"I knew that without the dexterity of my hands my time as a research chemist, and career I wanted, was over before it ever really began.”

After a year in hospital both in America and the UK, Matthew returned to America to work as a system analyst for 22 years before retiring.

Matthew was first introduced to Aspire during his stay at Stoke Mandeville Spinal Centre. Aspire Grants helped Matthew part-fund electric wheels for his wheelchair.

He was referred to Aspire again when he needed advice regarding welfare benefits. Matthew needed support with changing his disability benefit from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) due to government changes.

The Aspire Welfare Benefits Team worked with Matthew to discuss the criteria changes for the new benefit and discussed the ways in which his disability affected his everyday life.

Matthew says: “During discussions with the Welfare Benefits Advisor, she explained how I and many others with a spinal cord injury normalise behaviour in order to ‘get on’ with things and we came to the conclusion that I met quite a lot of the criteria to be awarded the Daily Living component of PIP.”

With assistance from Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Team Matthew was awarded the Enhanced rate of PIP for both the daily living and mobility components of PIP which increased his income by £80 a week.

“It could not have been better and I cannot thank the team enough. At every stage of my appeal and completing my PIP application, I couldn’t have asked for any more help, support and advice."

“It could not have been better and I cannot thank the team enough. At every stage of my appeal and completing my PIP application, I couldn’t have asked for any more help, support and advice. My Employment Support Allowance appeal was successful because Aspire provided me with great representation and I am certain that without the advisor's help filling out the PIP application I would not have phrased my answers correctly and misrepresented my condition and the impact it has on my life.”

"My Employment Support Allowance appeal was successful because Aspire provided me with great representation"

The £80 payment each week now pays for Matthew’s hydrotherapy sessions which help him maintain his ability to walk and help ease muscle spasms. Without Aspire’s assistance in receiving PIP, Matthew wouldn’t be able to afford the hydrotherapy sessions.

“It’s had a very positive impact on my life and is something I would not be able to afford without PIP. I often contribute to online SCI forums and always recommend Aspire’s Welfare Benefits service to people needing assistance with benefits as I think the service is incredible and so valuable.”