I was injured on 14th July 2019, a date I remember well because it was the day England won the Cricket World Cup.  A few weeks earlier I had twisted my back and had had a bit of a bad back ever since, but that day I remember getting out of the shower, twisting my back and feeling something drop onto my right hip.  A few hours later I couldn’t walk so I went to hospital and was told I had a spinal cord injury.  That day it felt like a curtain coming down on my life.  In the space of just one day, my life had changed fundamentally. 

John in his wheelchair outside

I spent months flat on my back in hospital.  I’ve been in the music business for 40 years and was a drummer, but I had to stop working as it took 2½ months before I could even sit up in bed. My injury didn’t just impact my life but my family’s as well.  I have two sons and family is everything.  Everyone dropped everything to come to my bedside. 

After a spinal injury you find that your world has changed; you’re a new version of who you were, a different person. I was lucky that I had family. 

I wasn’t able to go back to my flat as it was inaccessible and there are not many properties available that are suitable for people with a wheelchair.  I spoke to an Aspire Independent Living Advisor when I was in the Spinal Injury Centre and when I was ready to be discharged, I moved into one of Aspire's accessible houses.  Getting this place has been the biggest benefit that I have received from anyone; having somewhere like this to live has made all the difference. 

My Your Fund

One of the first trips after my injury was to a friend's farm and campsite.  When I got there, I found I was limited to the house and a small paved area.  There was so much more to do, but it wasn’t accessible for a wheelchair user.  I pushed onto the grass but couldn’t get very far and that’s when I first had the idea of getting an all terrain electric wheelchair.  I’m a big fan of cricket and to get into a cricket ground I knew that’s what I’d need.  My friend looked it up online and found a great one, but it would cost £11,000 - a lot of money.  I couldn’t borrow any because I had no income as I was unable to go back to work, however because of lockdown I hadn’t been anywhere, so I hadn’t spent any money and I wasn’t running a car anymore, so I managed to save half the money I needed.

My son Philip knew about Aspire and did everything, from calling them to setting up the JustGiving page. 

Some people may think asking for money feels like going cap in hand and makes you feel like a failure, but it’s not like that at all. People I hadn’t spoken to for years gave donations and wrote lovely messages. 

Many people just gave what they could, and the small amounts really added up.  £30 may not seem like much but it’s such a lovely thing when someone does what they can because they want to help.  Within 24 hours we had raised £1,000!  

I was really lucky that I had been part of the music community for decades.  I couldn’t believe it when my boss Barry said, “whatever you raise, I’ll match it.”  We have been friends for years, since before he was my boss, and he helped so much with my fundraising.

Aspire also sent me a list of websites which might be able to help, one of which was the Help Musicians charity who helped me reach my fundraising target.  I ordered the all terrain wheelchair and it arrived the week before Christmas, although sadly not wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper!

My all terrain electric wheelchair

My son Philip always reminds me that the very first time we took my new wheelchair out was in snow and ice, some of the worst weather possible!  The ice on the pavement was fine for me but my son had to walk on the road.  I was like a child - little bits of freedom make all the difference.

It’s an outstanding machine.  I can get out around the estate where I live and go down to the local marina.  I have to learn what routes will work and those that I can do by myself.  It’s not great if there’s lots of traffic as drivers are not polite - just as with cyclists - as it’s hard to see me sometimes.  When I go to the seaside I can now get down onto the sand as it handles soft as well as firm sand. Before, I would have been stuck in the car park looking down at everyone having a good time.  It even makes it easier to get to the beautiful tasty cherries on the tree in my garden.

The number one reason to get the wheelchair was so I could get to see the cricket at my local club.  Their path was too steep for me so they made a gentler slope which means I can go to watch all the games I want to.

John in his wheelchair watching cricket

The all terrain machine has now come into its own. With its three wheels and chunky mountain bike tread it can do slopes a lot better than my manual wheelchair.  A spinal cord injury means that the world narrows, but it gives me access to the world and has made a huge difference.  It gives me access to places I couldn’t get to before.  Even just a bit of rough ground or a slope I can’t do in a manual wheelchair.  I can now go to places that would stop other wheelchair users in their tracks. 

I have named my all terrain wheelchair Abraham Lincoln because for me it represents a new birth of freedom.

I do still use my manual wheelchair at home as I want to keep using my upper body as much as possible.  After I ordered the all terrain wheelchair, I had some money left over which I used to buy a standing frame, which helps me stand once I’m strapped into it.  It’s the only way for me to get upright and standing up is such a lovely feeling, although I can only do it for five minutes at a time.

I would recommend an Aspire Your Fund to anyone as it helps if you have an organisation that understands what’s required, and that’s where Aspire comes in.  They give you the best advice and will point you in the right direction. 

I was also lucky to have Philip as he was the captain of our ship!

Don’t be put off by the thought of asking for help. If you have a spinal cord injury, it’s obvious to others what has happened, and people were happy to give me a small donation if it meant I’d be able to go and watch the cricket as they know that’s important to me.  And at the same time Aspire gets extra funds for the next spinally injured person that needs some help.  

Your Fund

Personal stories

How we help