On 28th March 2020 I set out on a journey that would change my life and mindset forever.  My name is Tony Hill, my occupation a bricklayer of 30 years.  I am a divorced father of two daughters and a recovering functioning alcoholic.

I was heading over to a mate’s house on the eve of this day for a drinking session and to stay overnight after being off work for two weeks and isolating due to Covid-19.  Excited and impatient, I was travelling at speed down a country lane when I lost control of the car causing it to roll and end up on its roof.  I don’t recall any more than that, other than the emergency services turning up at the scene after a passing car called them, realising I couldn’t move anything and I was in excruciating pain.

Waking in A&E, following a very long and painful ambulance trip (I was falling in and out of consciousness but I remember the journey seeming endless), I could hear voices stating the obvious, I was prodded from my neck down to my toes, but I couldn’t feel a thing! Reality and the enormity of my situation was very rapidly placed before me.

Two weeks on my back following a surgical procedure on my 4th ,5th and 6th cervical vertebrae (inserting a plate in my neck) and staring at a ceiling was long enough to know this was probably the biggest thing to ever happen to me, the uncertainty of the outcome as plain as the nose on my face, although I hadn’t seen a mirror since the accident - how did my face or the rest of me look?  I felt completely helpless, I was helpless!

I was told I had broken my neck and sustained a spinal cord injury (incomplete) which had rendered me paralysed from the neck down. 

I found out that a spinal cord injury affects everything from the injury point and below - signals from the brain are passed to the muscles/limbs and returned back to the brain to enable every action/movement to be performed.  Both bladder and bowels were not functioning, hmm... this isn’t good I thought.

Going into my third week I’m looking down towards my feet and I visualise my toes moving, my left big toe slowly moves back and forth, a smile and tears envelop my face, a glimmer of hope fills my every thought, if that toe can move then surely I can get the others to move?

This was my inspiration for the next five months, working closely with nurses, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists at The Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injury Unit in Salisbury they gave me the tools, the hope and encouragement to develop and grow.

I always describe to family and friends that it’s like being reborn, being a baby once again, having your bowels tended to (like a nappy); learning everything over again, the strongest most powerful component being the mind and the will - the real want to redevelop your skills/functions given every individual’s own limitations and the severity of the injuries sustained.  A lot of spinal injury patients are left paralysed from the chest or waist and below and not from accidents, some are from spinal cord infections.

I learned to sit again, stand, walk, move my digits, hold a cup, raise my hands to my lips to drink and eat myself, to believe I could do more and more with every dedicated determined effort to become independent again.

An Independent Living Advisor named Roy from Aspire was on the journey with me weekly, calling, texting and emailing to support my progress.  Weekly Zoom meetings were set up to answer questions and queries regarding support networks for spinal injury patients (a very valuable source of information for all inpatients) and offering information for financial support and where to go for it.

Tony Hill smiling

At the time of writing this, it’s 26th October 2020 and I am sat at home at my desktop typing this on a keyboard. 

I still continue to get weekly text messages from Roy with support and advice, he is always available on the end of the phone if I require his help or advice.

What an incredible journey we are all on as spinal injury patients. Aspire extends this support to the families of Spinal Cord Injury patients and offers an amazing service and support network.

Thank you so much Aspire and Roy for your continued support.

It’s not the end after a spinal cord injury, this is just the beginning!

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