I’m part of the Hare Krishna organisation and I’ve been practicing for 20 odd years now. I was working there as the Security Manager for the temple; we have a temple and a vegetarian restaurant in Soho Square in London.  

Carl in his wheelchair

My injury developed slowly; my legs started deteriorating and I was becoming paralysed. There were many days that I couldn’t go to work and then the next day it would be totally normal.  Within six months I became paralysed and I ended up in The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.  After doing an embolization procedure, they found that it was a spinal infarct at T12 level.

I think the worst part of it for me was losing control of the bowels and bladder, that was the most disturbing

The fact that my legs weren’t working, there’s nothing you can do, so there’s no point getting too stressed. But my bowels and bladder leaking all the time uncontrollably was nightmarish.

Eventually I was moved to the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at Stanmore and the rehabilitation began. At that point I’d kind of resigned myself and thought “this is it.” I told myself that not much progress will be made from here, but the whole team there really transformed a lot of stuff in my life. They really were amazing.

Carl in his wheelchair

Before I was paralysed I was really active - cycling, walking, Aikido, swimming - so it was very scary and disturbing when I couldn’t do those things anymore.  But during rehab they got me involved in table tennis and I went to the Inter-Spinal Unit Games and won a gold medal in table tennis for Stanmore. By the time I left I was so empowered.  I literally wheeled out of there feeling quite empowered by the whole team there.

My case worker and other Spinal Unit staff were the ones that told me about Aspire and Laura, Aspire’s Housing Advice Manager, gave me a lot of advice. 

When I was discharged I had to move into a hostel because I couldn’t go back to my own home. It was a homeless hostel and that was scary because I was a security manager and always throwing out homeless people so I had all these preconceptions (as people do now towards me as a disabled person) but it ended up being exactly the opposite. The staff were really nice and the people living there were just everyday people; a situation had arisen in their life and they found themselves homeless. I stayed there for a year.

Carl in his wheelchair

By the end of the year the council started showing me different properties.  I was really concerned about the prospect of living in the properties they showed me.  The first one was on an estate with ‘heavy’ looking people and groups of teenagers and I thought, “I don’t want to be rolling in and out of this place in the evening.”  I felt really vulnerable.

So that’s when I got in contact again with Laura, Aspire’s Housing Case Manager, to ask for some advice.

The help and advice Laura gave me was so useful and definitely helped me to understand my situation better

Not long after that I was offered the place that I’m in now and I have been very happy here for over two years.

Being in a suitable property where I feel comfortable and safe, has done a lot. A huge amount of anxiety has gone

Obviously I still have my spinal injury to deal with, but there was so much other stuff that lessened just because of being housed in a quiet, safe place.

I was able to vision becoming a person again instead of just being a patient 24/7

Now friends come over and cook for me, and I cook for them. I’m starting out again with girlfriends and all of that. Family are able to visit and spend time with me.

So much of the base anxiety and negative moods have settled down because of being here. I really am grateful for it, it’s amazing really. When we were on the ward we were told to get our housing sorted, get our benefits sorted and then we could start looking for jobs. So now that I’ve been settled at home for a couple of years I think I’ll start to look for different careers. I was thinking, because I’m really into music I could do a sound engineering course as a possibility. Or I’m another option is training to be a support worker in the hostels that I was in. Because I know where they’ve been, I can empathise.

All of these things are possible now I’m home. I think Aspire is doing an amazing job. For so many of us recently injured, leaving the spinal ward like myself to a homeless hostel in a wheelchair is a frightening prospect. I really feel the work that Aspire do is so important in empowering people to survive their new physical and mental circumstances post injury.

My housing situation at the time was quite difficult so they contacted Laura for me. The help and advice she gave me was so useful and definitely helped me to understand my situation better. I’ve now been in a fully accessible flat for two years which I’m really happy with and so naturally the stress I once felt has definitely improved. Laura completely met my expectations. - Carl

It really has been a miracle being housed here

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