Before my accident I was a keen outdoorsman. I loved nature and the countryside with a passion, and still do. I was super-fit and my main hobbies were archery, walking in the countryside, practicing bushcraft skills, growing food, chainsaw carving and swimming.  My partner and I had two young children, aged 5 and 7, and two dogs.  My job revolved around my passion. I was a Practical Conservation Officer for a national conservation charity, teaching and leading conservation skills and tasks in the Lake District National Park. It was my dream job and an honour to be working in the National Park.

I was injured in September 2006 when I was leading a group of volunteers. I was carrying a 2lb lump hammer and a 4ft length of scaffolding tube. I went to step backwards and tripped up over a large tussock of grass. As I was in a field I thought to myself, "just relax, you’re only falling on grass" but just before I expected to hit the ground, BOOM!  I had landed on a large boulder which impacted me right between the shoulder blades. I knew I had hurt myself, but I didn't realise just how badly. I worked the rest of the day (although at a much lesser pace), drove all the volunteers home, and then upon returning home the pain hit. I didn't know it then, but I had wedge fractures at T3/T4.

Julian in his All Terrain Wheelchair

I went to A&E, had a full spinal X-ray, was given strong painkillers and told to rest because I had whiplash.  By the time I found out - when I had my NHS scan reviewed by a private doctor two years after my accident - I already knew I had a spinal cord injury.  I was devastated. I had known something was seriously wrong as I could hardly move. I went from climbing mountains to being confined at home and I sank into a very deep depression. 

My family was devastated. I shielded them from much of it, but they could all see that I was broken. Several family members confided to me that they broke down after visiting me. Our children, especially our older daughter, took it hard. She struggled to understand what had happened to Dad. I withdrew from society and all my old friends.

I purchased a Tramper scooter, as used by the disabled ramblers.  I managed to use it for four years until I could no longer use the handlebars to steer, plus with limited neck function I had started to really struggle at junctions looking left and right.

I sold it in 2012 and after that was no longer able to leave my house independently, only seeing the countryside from a car seat or a car park.  Not being able to get outside much had a really negative impact on my mental health and wellbeing.

In 2019 I contacted my Occupational Therapist who referred me to wheelchair services. They provided me with a powerchair which I had hoped would allow me to access the local area.  However, due to my condition I was only able to use it at home and in limited places like hospitals and supermarkets, because anything but the smoothest of surfaces made my pain and discomfort unmanageable.

I needed a specialist wheelchair but the NHS just don't provide that sort of equipment. After considerable research I found Magic Mobility, a company that produce an All Terrain Wheelchair with large low pressure tyres and ultra smooth suspension called the Extreme X8. I borrowed a demo chair and went around the Staveley Miles wheelchair accessible route which I am unable to do in my NHS powerchair.  I struggle with any jolting of my spine, even gravel and pavement cracks are too uncomfortable for me to endure.  After trialling a variety of chairs, nothing came close to the level of comfort and ride of the Extreme X8; it was ultra smooth, like a magic carpet ride!

Having experienced the freedom and comfort this chair provided me I became determined to raise the funds to purchase one, but I was going to need £18,000 to get one with all my required modifications.  I found out about Aspire through a Google search.  Starting a Your FundYour Fund appealed to me as a suitable way of trying to raise the funds I so desperately needed to become independent again.   

Once I purchased a Magic Mobility Extreme X8 All Terrain Wheelchair, I felt like a kid again!  I can now go out when I want, where I want, it’s truly liberating. I can take my assistance dog out for a walk and once I receive my Motability wheelchair accessible vehicle, the world will be my oyster! 

I'm basically free to go and do what I want; uphill, down dale, water’s edge, forest paths and uphill climbs to viewpoints. I can even tackle soft sand and deep snow with my new 4x4 wheelchair and climb a six inch kerb.

Julian in his All Terrain Wheelchair

The extra funds I raised went towards a seat riser function, so that I can be at head height when talking to people or I can use it to look over a drystone wall or field gate. Its already come in handy trying to spot otters in the local river as it helps me look over the bank side vegetation. I'm not currently looking to buy anything else, although a profiling bed would potentially be my next goal.

If I hadn't raised the money through an Aspire Your Fund, I would have lost my NHS power chair, which I can only use indoors, as I would have had to use the equivalent NHS voucher value to contribute towards my All Terrain Wheelchair. Thanks to Aspire, I can keep my NHS powerchair. I see it as indoor shoes and outdoor shoes - and now I have both!

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