I was determined to walk after I had my accident and I was given full length callipers and crutches. Eventually, I didn’t need the crutches and I’m one of the very few spinal breaks I’ve come across who can walk with callipers but without sticks. I’m always on the move, whether I’m in my chair or walking.

Some days I feel low, and then I think how lucky I am

When I got out of hospital it was a bit of a struggle at first to find work. But then I got myself a job selling and maintaining wheelchairs, though it meant that I was travelling thousands of miles around the country every week and seeing little of my family. Around the same time I discovered basketball at Stoke Mandeville, where they were still playing the game in cumbersome old hospital chairs. I thought, ‘Hey, looks interesting!’ and joined in.

By 1989 I was playing wheelchair basketball for Great Britain and first came across Aspire. They asked me to help them set up a team and Aspire Force was born; I’m immensely proud of the fact that the ladies’, junior and men’s teams have played every Saturday since. Chairs have improved immeasurably in that time, which hopefully will mean less wear and tear on the body for the players in years to come. Of course, I still play and coach whenever I get the chance, too.

Joe playing wheelchair Basketball

Now that I’m working full-time at Aspire as their maintenance manager, I get to talk to lots of patients who come here. I tell them that really their life begins when they leave the hospital, go home and are on their own. My main problems are pain, sores and bladder issues. Poorly fitting and heavy wheelchairs and ageing haven’t helped. Both shoulders have been dislocated and I have arthritis in my knees. Years ago, I even leant against a hot fireguard, smelled burning and had to make a mad dash to the hospital. It took weeks to heal.

Some days I feel low, and then I think how lucky I am. I have travelled all round the world playing basketball, met and married my first wife and had two lovely kids. Sadly, she died a few years ago but I’ve been really fortunate in marrying again. If I had a wish for a day, I’d reverse things and put the able-bodied in a chair and give the wheelchair users a day of walking and running about and dancing.