About a year ago I fell down my son’s stairs and damaged my spinal cord, becoming a tetraplegic. Before that I worked for M&S as a store manager, so I was always busy and on my phone a lot. When I was first in King’s I told my daughter to keep my phone because I couldn’t work it.  I was there for eight weeks and was then transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and was still unable to work my phone.

I spent six months with no phone. If I wanted to watch my iPad I had to call someone if I wanted to change the channel or start watching a film.  It was the worst feeling, not being able to contact anyone. 

My friends had to contact my daughter as they couldn’t contact me directly.  My daughter also had to do my online banking.  Anything I needed I had to ask for help with.

When I came to Stoke Mandeville that was my first goal, to be able to use technology.  I started using voice control and it was such a game changer.  Suddenly I could ask my daughter to leave my phone with me as I could work it and I could use my iPad without having to ask someone.  It’s the simple things that can mean a really big change.

At Stoke Mandeville I met Alison, Aspire’s Assistive Technology Manager, who is so good, she really knows her stuff. She introduced me to so much technology for accessibility, such as different types of mouth control; she went through everything.  I got a laptop from work and she helped with that too.  I’m able to use my fingers more to operate that now.  It’s been so amazing; everything I can do now I couldn’t do for six months.

I am desperate to go back to work and I feel confident that I could do that - at least with the technology side - even if some of the physical side of it I wouldn’t be able to do. Technology-wise, I  feel 100% confident that I could do the job. 

My boss has been very supportive and visits me regularly.  When he asked me what my concerns are, I said firstly when and where I was going to live and, secondly, going back to work. He said he didn’t know of a Store Manager in a wheelchair “but that’s not to say you can’t be the first”.  My job is waiting for me and I should be able to go back to work in some capacity, they are really good at looking after people. 

Aspires Assistive Technologist Alison helpin Tracey use an iPad

I’m leaving hospital at the end of April and going into a bungalow where I will be for 6-12 months whilst my home is being adapted. I lost my husband nine years ago and have three children. One of my daughters lives at home and the other has four children. My son got married last year, which I had to miss.

I’m a very positive person and tried not to let my injury get to me. If you let it get to you, you’ll go on a downward spiral.  Because I was so positive, that stopped my three children from getting depressed about it as well.  As it goes on you can’t help having more and more negative thoughts about what you can’t do, but at Stoke Mandeville they educate you into things you can and can’t do.

The first six months were definitely harder because I couldn’t use technology, as I spent a lot of time in bed.  Alison was brilliant, so patient. It’s a shame I didn’t meet Alison earlier in my journey.

Assistive technology

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