Callum had been working as a tree surgeon for ten years, when a freak accident left him with a spinal cord injury.  You would imagine that working at great heights was a hazardous job but, ironically, he was injured whilst working on a tree that had already been felled.  He fell onto a log where a small branch pierced his spinal cord at the T6 level.  He immediately knew something was seriously wrong when he tried to get up but couldn’t.  The air ambulance was called and he was flown to Southampton where he would spend a month in an induced coma, mainly due to the pain caused by multiple injuries including a broken shoulder, fractured ribs and a head injury.

Once he was stable enough, Callum was transferred to Basingstoke to wait 12 days for a bed to become available at the specialist spinal injury centre at Salisbury District Hospital.  Once there he just got on with his rehabilitation, it was later that the reality of having a spinal cord injury hit home.  He would spend three months there, which was frustrating particularly as the centre was short staffed and the agency nurses that were brought in often had no experience of spinal cord injury.  His family and friends provided endless support, but it hit them harder than him – the psychological affects would manifest themselves further down the line.

When he was ready for discharge, Callum had to think about where he was going to live and if he would be able to live independently at home.  He didn’t have much help from the community occupational therapists, and so he sorted out his housing himself.  Thanks to family and friends who raised money to convert his bathroom he was able to go home and not have to live miles away from his loved ones, which at one point was looking like his only option.

Callum hanging from a tree

Roy, Aspire’s Independent Living Advisor, introduced himself to Callum fairly early on in his rehab and explained the help and support that was available.  He also had the opportunity to chat to him at the Solve It education sessions or just over lunch. 

It made a real difference having Roy to talk to as he had been through it and come out the other side.  You are told the things that you can’t do but Roy showed me what I could do.

Roy was able to give advice on adapting the way you do everyday tasks, tell him about clothing that is easier to put on and won’t cause pressure sores, driving again - topics not usually covered by the medical staff.  “There are a lot of things you can do, some of it is trial and error, and having people from the charities to talk things through with really helped."  

If I hadn’t met Roy I think getting to where I am now would have been a much slower process and without the support from him and my family and friends, it would have been an incredibly depressing time.

As soon as he was able, Callum returned to work running the business.  At first there was a lot of administration work to do, but once he had got his truck adapted he was soon driving the pick-up, diggers and the ride on mower and occasionally has been know to climb trees with rope and harness!  He is also a qualified boxing coach and has returned to the ring to train the next generation of fighters.

Not a lot stops me, and I hope it inspires others to give things a go


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