Life turned around for one man thanks to an Aspire Grant
Seven years ago a motorbike accident left Carl paralysed from the chest down. After a long period in hospital, Aspire helped him purchase an electric Batec bike to get out and about again with his family.
Carl, now 39, had an accident in November 2009. It was a rainy day and the wheels of his motorbike skidded on some mud, throwing him off into a ditch at the side of the road. He didn’t lose consciousness and immediately realised he couldn’t feel his legs. Amazingly, a motorist had seen Carl driving ahead in the distance, and when he realised Carl had disappeared into thin air he turned around to see what had happened.
“That man was paying attention that day!” says Carl. “He found me and called an ambulance. I arrived at Stoke Mandeville hospital, and remember asking whether I’d be in overnight; but the reality was that I stayed in their Spinal Injury Centre for seven months.
“It was a crushing time. I had to learn how to do practically everything again. Things you take for granted like pulling your trousers up, or rolling over in bed. In a split second on that road, I’d been paralysed and from the chest down I had no movement – I couldn’t even feel my skin. I spent the whole of Christmas lying flat on my back unable to sit up or look at who’d come to see me, whilst I waited for my spine to come out of shock.”
In an operation, the hospital team found a broken bone poking into Carl’s spinal cord which they removed, and this released some feeling, highlighting a broken knee, which hadn’t been picked since the accident. “It was awful,” Carl explains, “after the operation I started getting bad spasms as a result of the pain, and they’d get so intense I’d be thrown out of my wheelchair. I had to tie my feet and legs down and my legs would kick all night. It meant I couldn’t sleep in the same bed as Rachel, my partner of 9 years.”
In an attempt to calm the spasms, in 2011 Carl chose to have a baclofen pump fitted in his stomach which would drip feed medicine directly into his spine. Previously he’d tried sedative tablets but these made him feel spaced out most of the time. “There are risks of the pump malfunctioning,” Carl says, “but it means I can drive safely, my legs are more controllable and I can share a bed again.”
Now Carl is enjoying life as a new dad, and thanks to the spinal injury charity Aspire, he has an electric Batec bike which allows him to go to all the places he used to visit. “It’s really hilly around where I live,” he says, “propelling my wheelchair with my arms is so tiring and it’s near impossible to get up the steeper slopes.
“When I found out I’d been successful in part funding for the bike, it made me feel ‘wow’, just an amazing feeling. If I’d not been successful, I’d have had to wait a couple of years before being able to afford one myself.
“Since receiving the grant from Aspire and getting the bike, life has turned itself around. It gives me far more independence. I can ‘nip’ to the shops and go virtually anywhere I choose. I can even go out in the dark and the best part is having the freedom to take my daughter out with me, and enjoy a relaxing time in the countryside.
“There’s no way I could push a pram at the same time as directing my wheelchair, so this gives me the ability to connect with Sienna and have precious one on one time with her without worrying about anything else. I am looking forward to exploring new places with my daughter.”