I was 61 on 1st August 2020 I was chopping some tall hedges in the garden.  I had done about 20 already and for the 21st I put a ladder up, got the extension up, lashed the ladder to the tree and, although I had been up and down the ladder several times, it turned out that the ladder was more secure than I was and I simply fell off. I fell backwards straight onto my back.

I knew immediately that it was really serious and that I’d probably lost the use of my legs. I was fully conscious the whole time; the pain was so bad that I kept asking to be knocked out, but the medics couldn’t do that.

Mike in his wheelchair

I was airlifted to St George’s and had spinal surgery. I was there for about 5 weeks before being transferred to Stanmore to continue rehab. Everything slowed down because Covid hit hard and I had some issues with pressure sores that hindered rehab. I got to Stanmore in September 2020 and was there until December; I got home just in time for Christmas.

I strongly believe that it is important to concentrate on the art of the possible, not the impossible and what you used to do. For me, it’s about what you can still do even if that means doing things differently.

My friends and family were very supportive, and still are. Due to Covid, St George’s was closed to all visitors so using FaceTime with the family was crucial. The importance of having visitors should never be underestimated when you are going through this.  

When I got to Stanmore, they also had a Covid restrictions in place so I only got two visits in 5 months and these were chaperoned outside. The downside of these outside visits is that family didn’t see life on the ward and therefore couldn’t get the training that would have been really useful, learning about pressure sores etc.   

Mike with his wife

My wife is incredibly supportive and her employer gave her a sabbatical because - although you try to be independent from day one of getting home - it’s very difficult, it all takes time to adjust to.

We’re now just over 12 months down the line and the amount of things I can do now that I couldn’t do when I first came home amazes me, so we’re getting there.

I spoke to Lindsey, Aspire’s Independent Living Advisor, who put me in touch with their Welfare Benefits Advice Service. She was very motivating and helped me understand that I shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Due to Covid Lindsay wasn’t allowed to do her usual ward visits so she did weekly zoom calls and gave us the opportunity to talk about anything we wanted to alongside set topics of conversation. I found it so useful to speak to another wheelchair user with a spinal cord injury, because they’ve obviously lived and breathed it and getting on with life. It was very motivating.

Mike in his wheelchair

The Welfare Benefits advice I received was extremely beneficial. As a newly injured person, you’re going into this big, murky ocean of the complete unknown. You don’t know where to start without being pointed in the right direction. The more anyone can be aware of what is available and what is and isn’t funded can only help. Aspire certainly helped and answered all my questions.

Aspire helped me complete my PIP form.  I could have completed the form myself, but I think I would have made errors; some of the questions are very ambiguous and very frustrating.  I like to think that I am a reasonably intelligent guy, but it is a 40 page document that is very daunting.

The PIP money I now receive means I can pay for private care, once a day. This gives my wife a break and makes sure she doesn’t take everything on. In future, I plan to join the Motability scheme which will be fantastic for my independence.

It would have been a lot more stressful without Aspire assisting and being in the background answering all my questions as they arose, that I can guarantee. I really appreciate Aspire being available when I need support and guidance.

Welfare Benefits Advice

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