I met Danny in Sheffield Spinal Unit in September 2019. He was one of the first friendly faces to wheel into my room and give me tips on how to adjust to being in a wheelchair, albeit, as it turned out, not for long.

I have an incomplete T12 injury and I pushed myself from day dot to beat the clock and get home quicker than predicted by clinicians. They laughed at me when I first arrived at the unit on the 5th September claiming I would be out by the end of September. I had not so much as sat in a wheelchair yet having spent seven weeks on flat bed rest at the Norfolk & Norwich hospital. Oh, but I had the last laugh!

As I skipped through each stage from transfers, to crutches to sticks, I would visit Danny most days to his cheers of joy for me as I was progressing.

Sadly, Danny has a ‘complete’ injury and was not as lucky as me with his progress.

I soon realised just how much I truly had to be grateful for, and, as I believe quite a few ‘walkers’ experience, I felt some guilt at my level of recovery.

It really tugged on my heart strings when I saw his little boy visit one day and on leaving with his grandparents, I could see the distress Danny was in. I wheeled over to give him a hug and some reassurance. He was an absent father, separated from his little boy’s mother. Having had my fair share of experience of this in my younger years, I did my best to support him.

Another great chap I met in Sheffield was Alex Jewitt, an Aspire Independent Living Advisor. I was so glad he encouraged me to take part in wheelchair classes. The basketball and wheelchair skills were great, but my favourite had to be the wheelchair table tennis since I’m very competitive and used to play this a lot when I was a child. It definitely helped my recovery and gave me the motivation I needed.

For me, Sheffield was a positive experience and I was almost sad to leave on 4th October - just four days over my goal! This was two months earlier than the consultants had anticipated. Danny and I swapped numbers and we said we would keep in touch, and that’s exactly what we did.

It was great to be contacted by Alex when I first got home, but I turned down any further support as I felt I was handling life really well with the support of my husband.

Over the next six months I went from strength to strength at home; learning to adjust to my new limitations and pushing myself to maximise my recovery. I joined a gym, went swimming and set goals to increase my walking step by step with the goal of being able to walk my two dogs again.


I was gobsmacked to hear that Danny was still in hospital learning transfers as we went into 2020. It felt like a lifetime ago since I had left him behind in Sheffield. The poor guy had so many complications having broken both his arms in his accident, and the level of his injury which was T5/6 complete, had left him paralysed from the chest down. He was a daily reminder of what ‘could have been’ for me.

Despite the difference in our injuries Danny and I still found some solace in talking through our experiences of them to each other. Plus, we have both had our fair share of mental health issues, which we could chat about as well.

Danny finally left Sheffield for his new ‘adapted’ home, but just two days later lockdown began! This poor guy who finally had the chance to start rebuilding his life, was going to be isolated from friends and family.

It seemed so unfair. I was at home, able to carry on a ‘near’ normal life with my husband and two doggies whilst he was alone and isolated with just daily carers popping in.

I was looking for a new goal and had been racking my brain for something I could do to help a spinal cord injury charity. Then it occurred to me; Danny had told me that his biggest wish for the future was to be able to take his little boy for days out to the zoo or suchlike. He would struggle in a standard wheelchair and hoped one day to be able to afford a motorised attachment. I decided I would raise some money to help put something towards this.

My 5km walk

When I paid him a visit in his hometown in Derbyshire, I could see his dilemma. He couldn’t even go out his own front door due to how hilly the area is. A wheelchair user’s nightmare.

I have done a little fundraising in the past, on a very small scale. A few years back, I used my ‘Tropic Skincare’ business to help raise £350 for ‘Mind’ Charity. I hoped to raise a little more this time and being I like to aim high, I set up a fundraising page with a target of £500, hoping that it would go some way towards a trike attachment.

So, what was I going to do as my challenge to raise this money? Just a little 5km walk on my one-year anniversary, which was fairly ambitious being the most I had walked at this point was 2km. Plus, my goal was set for 19th July, my one year anniversary of my accident. Just one month away!

Nikki with walking poles in the countryside

Danny was so grateful when I told him my plan, and neither of us could believe that within just a few days, we had smashed the £500 target and the figure kept rising. Dan started investigating second hand Batecs and was getting his mojo back.

I asked for donations on my birthday in June and with the figure now at around £2000, I started to feel the pressure. Wow, I had no idea that so many people would be so incredibly generous. I started asking friends to walk with me regularly to practice and was taking my dogs out for 2-3km walks on a good day. The most I had done before the big day was 3.5km so I was quite nervous.

The big day

The big day arrived and the weather played ball, so my husband and I set off. Me with my new graphite walking poles and backpack stuffed with energy snacks and drinks, my poor husband carrying a camping chair in case I needed a rest.

We set off on our route at Roman Camp in North Norfolk with MapMyWalk giving me vocal updates every 0.5 km. I started off at a confident pace, feeling very upbeat. My husband did a few Facebook live posts to get further support and give everybody updates, including Danny who was watching from home. We reached the halfway point which I’d planned with great precision to rest on a bench with a sea view for a 10 minute break.

The second half went a lot slower. I used to be able to jog 5km in around 35 minutes which was in stark contrast to the new me coming to the end of my challenge at around 2 ½ hours. The final stretch back to the car was really tough, my thighs were a little shaky and my weaker leg started to scrape on the ground a little.

I was more than exhausted. Map my walk confirmed I had done 5km, and once back in the car, still on Facebook live, I embarrassingly burst into tears! I had done it.

With the £2,500 that we raised; Danny was able to get a brand new batec at a huge discount. I think you will see why it melted my heart to see the picture he sent me with his little boy. I am so happy that he can get out and about now and I look forward to seeing pictures of him at the zoo with his lad in the future. Mission accomplished.

Danny on his bike with his son

My next goal

Now as for me, I always like a new goal to be aiming for. I am currently writing a book, which I hope to publish next Spring, and definitely by my 2nd anniversary. It is a memoir about what caused me to have my accident, something that is very hard to talk about, and in fact Danny was the first person I felt able to share this with. It then catalogues my recovery with plenty of laughs and tears along the way.

I hope the book will help inspire others and give them hope, taking the positive out of any situation and as my favourite saying in life goes: ‘aim for the moon, if you miss you still get to land in the stars’, cheesy but it works for me!

If you would like to know when my book is released or find out more about me, read my blog

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