Eva was 16 years old when she sustained a T12 complete Spinal Cord injury in December 2021. Her Mother, Clodagh contacted Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice service for support with Eva’s benefit claims.

Eva was out one night with four of her friends. She was a backseat passenger when another driver crashed into them, around midnight. It’s tragic how one night can turn out so awful and with dreadful consequences; the driver of Eva’s car lost his life and Eva was left with a life-changing spinal cord injury.

The first feeling and thought I had was despair. Total despair. I just had no knowledge of Spinal Cord Injury and trying to process that was so difficult because I just thought of all the things Eva wouldn’t be able to do. It felt like the end of the world. She was only 16 and I was petrified she would never live an independent life.

As time has gone on, I realise that it is possible for her to have an independent and very full life. Obviously there are challenges but she is showing us every day that she is going to be fine and fit for things. Life can be good, it will be good. She still wants to do everything, she just has to find another way.

When Eva was discharged from Musgrave Spinal Injury Centre in March 2022 she was asked to join the Spinal Games at Salisbury Hospital as a swimmer. She went across to England, travelling with three Musgrave staff members and two other people with spinal cord injuries. She met other young people with injuries and had a great time at all the different taster sessions for various sports.

Those games really showed us that there is a ‘second life’ to be had and life does not have to stop after a spinal cord injury.

I found that once I was getting my head around the medical side of Eva’s injury, I was becoming concerned about the impact on other things in our lives, such as adaptations to our home, Eva returning to school, if I had to take time off work etc. There were so many questions and things to think about that I just wanted to be informed to make the best decisions I could. I felt very lost and I didn’t know what I should be doing. I reached out to Aspire because I wanted somebody to talk to, to tell me what I should expect and what benefits I’d be entitled to if I did have to take a break from work. 

I had no knowledge of the benefits system prior to Eva’s injury so speaking to Michelle was beyond helpful. She made sure we received everything we are entitled to. The advice from Aspire has been great because it has brought Eva financial benefits, which should give her better choices and outcomes.

All the contact I’ve had with Aspire and their advice has been second to none. Nobody enjoys talking about their finances and it is difficult to ask for help, especially in relation to benefits, but Michelle really knows her stuff!  She was always so patient and kind, even when I was emotional on the phone. That support really makes a difference when you are in the middle of something so life-changing.

Clodgah and Eva sitting on the sofa

The PIP form was very detailed and lengthy, but Michelle’s help saved me so much time and stress but it wasn’t just the PIP form; I would never have known about Universal Credit (UC) had it not been for my conversations with Michelle.

Eva is now better off, with her own money and some independence. It’s brilliant and it’s really going to help her moving forward. It will really help when she starts University as the regular student jobs in shops and bars probably won’t be accessible to her. She has the option to take a taxi now instead of a bus, too. This may seem like a small thing, but it makes the world of difference when you’re using a wheelchair.

Eva wants to drive which will give her great independence. Because of her PIP award she can join the Motability scheme and because of the extra UC money, she is able to save a little for an advanced payment for a specific car on the scheme.

Had it not been for Aspire I would have had no choice but to attempt these claims myself. That on top of trying to visit Eva in hospital, liaise with the school, care for my other younger daughter and manage the trauma of what had happened, as well as everything else to do with home adaptations - it would have been beyond stressful. Aspire has been a godsend.

At the start, every single aspect of a spinal cord injury is daunting and overwhelming. If there is another mother, or anyone going through this, I would definitely encourage them to make that call and reach out for the support because Aspire has really made a difference to me and my family. We are so grateful.

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