I am a dad and spinally injured, and I run Freedom Wheelchair Skills, which offers life-changing training. Supporting people to become more confident and independent. The opportunity to do this came to me after some difficult decisions and a life-changing event. The account that follows…
Rewards and heartache as I am dad.
It was rewarding working for a UK Spinal Injuries Charity. For part of my role, I regularly visited the Paediatric Ward at the NSIC to offer support to patients and parents, keep them updated with services available from the support networks of UK Spinal charities. After I had witnessed the miracle of the creation of life, I visited the ward with a different mindset – I was heartbroken for these kids and their mums and dads.
Now I am a dad; my emotions were heavy, my spirit weakened after spending a couple of hours with them. Thoughts of how my parents felt when I had my injury crept into my mind.
I needed to rethink my job options as I had done this for long enough. Travelling around the country teaching wheelchair skills, which I loved, and introducing people to the support available was enriching.
But these negative reflections continue to linger in my mind. Seeing repeated trauma through a parent’s eyes was just too emotionally draining for me.
The commute into the metropolis of London, to the office, didn’t help either. Originally it started off as being fun, exciting. However, over time it lost its appeal. Spending two, sometimes three hours to do a 30-mile door-to-door journey was exhausting; I can travel to Birmingham quicker (100 miles)! It all helped me make my decision.
The need, needs a solution.
I wanted to find a new direction, I wanted to move on. I knew there was a need to help more people. In a weekly meeting, at the end, the ‘any other business’ part came up. I made it known I’d like to focus less on visiting hospitals and was there an opportunity to concentrate on wheelchair skills training.
What I said wasn’t well received. The manager told me that ‘I shouldn’t have said that’. Adding it looked like ‘I was not dedicated‘!
I was offended by what she had just said. Each day I made the effort to get up early, leave the house in the quietness of the home counties. Possibly well before most of the office staff were taking their morning shower!
I’m a grown up, I am dad
I am a dad and now have responsibilities. There is a need to earn some hard cash. I need to pay bills, and put food on the table, clothes on our backs.
Departing the house before my son was up and returning home in the dark, when he was in bed, not being able to read bedtime stories was heart-breaking.
I have a baclofen pump which needs replacing roughly every seven or eight years. I get a lift to the hospital after a replacement date is confirmed. Kissed my wife goodbye in the car park, and go and book myself in for my few days under NHS hospitality.
Coming round from the anaesthetic, my teeth started to tingle and it progressed to a severe ache, it felt like a million tiny miners were chiselling away at the inside of each tooth. My left arm felt uncomfortably heavy. I could not lift it. I tried to flex my fingers with little response. There was pain in my chest. I was having a heart attack! The surgeon steps back and the crash team gathered around me. After a syringe is emptied into my cannula the pain is gone. Swiftly an oxygen mask is applied over my mouth.
To here, and to there, and back to here
Laying in an emergency vehicle with blue lights flashing. The Ambulance is taking me to see a cardiologist and have an angiogram performed. Ever had one? It is pretty impressive, how far healthcare science has developed. Who would have thought, if you insert a little pipe, with a camera on, into the vein in a wrist, you can push it into a patient’s heart and see what’s going on? While the patient is conscious!
I think I have been awake now for two days. The ambulance arrives to take me back to the spinal centre, to start my post-op recovery. I suspect the paramedics have been awake for as long. It’s the same team who rushed me to the cardiology ward. They say they have just been to the south coast, and not for ice cream!
I want to be a role model
I knew there was a need for independent wheelchair skills training. For people with conditions that meant that such support wasn’t available. People in my community asked if I could show them a thing or two about how to use their wheelchairs. One guy had brittle bones. A lady suffered from Multiple Sclerosis. Someone else had something wrong with her foot, making her walking very uncomfortable. They all approached me independently and asked me to help, which I gladly did.
As I am laying in the white-washed-walled six-bed bay, my wife comes to visit. My emotions are all over the shop. I burst into tears, happy to be alive and be able to see my wife again.
The time spent on my own is used up by thinking about my options. The thought is going round and round in my head. As we look lovingly into each other’s eyes, I tell her ‘I’m leaving my job, I can’t go back there.
My wife is sensible, she is clever, she is a Dr. She asks what I’m going to do, maybe not fully believing my statement. ‘Start my own wheelchair skills training business’ is my reply.
A time to start
I’m sticking to my word and not going back. After discharge, I have some recovery time at home. I contact my employer and inform them that I resign. After six months and a lot of planning. With support from my wife, other family members and friends, in June 2015 the button was pressed on the laptop and the website is launched. Believe it or not, the phone rings the next day.
To my delight, it’s going to work. I can be a role model. Bring in a wage. I can do school pick up. Play trains, cars or screwball scramble.
I am dad……
Note: The charity does great work supporting newly injured individuals. I continue to support them by volunteering. It was just unfortunate circumstances that made me feel the need to leave. I don’t miss London traffic!