Aspire is deeply sorry to learn of the death of Margaret Tebbit, who has been Aspire’s lifetime Vice President for the last 20 years.  She has been associated with the charity since she sustained her spinal cord injury in 1984 and will remain an inspiration to spinal cord injured people throughout the UK.

Margaret was paralysed in the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party conference at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, which she was attending with her husband, The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit.  Following the bombing, in which they were both injured, Margaret was treated at the Spinal Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, but was transferred to Stoke Mandeville so that she could be closer to Norman, who was also transferred there.

Following Margaret’s discharge, she became an outpatient at the Spinal Injury Centre in Stanmore which she visited regularly for her rehab, during which time she started building her relationship with Aspire.

In the 1990s, Margaret assisted Aspire when they were developing their Carer Training Programme.  Margaret believed that paid staff should be used, rather than family members, in the provision of care so that the family unit is disrupted as little as possible.  Through sharing her own experiences, she was able to develop Aspire’s understanding of what it is like to live with a paid member of staff in the household and was one of many individuals who helped shape this vital programme.

Aspire supported Margaret through the years, particularly when she required Assistive Technology.  As her ability to use her hands deteriorated, Aspire’s Assistive Technology Manager trained  her in the use of Dragon speech recognition software so that she could use a computer and also identified an E-Reader which she could use, to help solve a problem which she had previously talked about in Aspire’s book ‘It’s My Life’:

“It is a problem that I can’t move my hands much and reading isn’t easy as I can’t turn the pages, but I love ‘my’ Classic FM and we sometimes go to the opera and live theatre.  Perhaps one day they will make an electric book reader I can manage.”

In her capacity as Vice President, Margaret has attended many Aspire events, including its 25th birthday party.  In 1998, when the extension to the main Aspire building was opened by HRH the Duke of York, it was Margaret who showed him round the building.

Everyone at Aspire who met her remembers her with great fondness, particularly for the stories she would recount about her life, always with a great sense of humour.  Some of these stories she shared with Aspire in “It’s My Life”:

“I remember one night, while I was still on the spinal unit, going to dinner at Buckingham Palace with my husband, Norman, who was in the Cabinet at the time.  I was sitting opposite some rather stuffy European dignitaries and had a salad put in front of me.  Salad is still one of the most difficult things for me to eat and I must have looked worried.  Then such a kind chap on my right, who I later discovered was the Master of the Queen’s Household, spotted my embarrassment.  He nudged me and said, “Come on, let’s just do it!”  Together we ate our lettuce with our fingers.  The dignified ladies sitting opposite looked shocked, but I honestly don’t think the Queen would have minded.  The boys on the ward roared with laughter when I came back that night and told them.”

Brian Carlin, CEO of Aspire, says: “I am very sad to hear about Margaret’s death.  She will be deeply missed by myself and everyone at Aspire.  We are honoured that Margaret, Norman and their family have remained such loyal supporters of the charity throughout the years.  Margaret has been an incredible ambassador and role model for people with spinal cord injuries and an invaluable friend to Aspire for over 20 years.  Our thoughts are with Norman and the rest of her family.”

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