On 15th January, 2012, Jackie was settling in for an evening in front of the telly. She drifted off to sleep. But when she woke up several hours later something was wrong. She couldn’t feel her legs.

At her local hospital, doctors initially thought it was only an infection and sent her home with antibiotics. Although it emerged two weeks later that it hadn’t been an infection, but a spinal stroke. Jackie could still walk however so the specialist care and support she needed at this crucial juncture were not provided. She didn’t see anyone from a spinal injury unit and no rehabilitation was provided.

“I’m one of those people who slipped through the net.”

She was sent home without a wheelchair or any idea of how to cope with this life-changing event. Information and support at the early stages of a spinal cord injury is vital to learning how to adjust.  Jackie read up about spinal strokes and, rather than feeling like she needed to get help, she felt that she was lucky. She could still walk. However, she soon felt like she was losing her independence. She returned to work but was forced to take a leave of absence as the physical exhaustion and pain caused by getting around on crutches was too much.

Jackie was at her lowest point – stuck at home, no job, countless questions and no one to answer them. One day she was scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed when she came across Back Up’s page through a friend’s post. She eventually got in touch with our mentoring team who put her in touch with a volunteer in a similar situation. It was the first time she had ever spoken to a person who could genuinely understand what she was going through.

Encouraged by her mentor, Jackie went on Back Up’s Edinburgh City Skills Course for over 50s in May 2016. She was nervous about going but excited to meet other people who could relate to her experience. The wheelchair skills training throughout the course proved to be a revelation. She realised that her wheelchair could enable her to live her life again.

 ‘‘The course basically gave me my life back. I was so much more confident in myself afterwards.’’

Since the course, Jackie’s life has transformed. She is so much more confident in using her wheelchair and she sees the impact of this daily. Simple pleasures like enjoying a coffee in the morning sun – that could be a struggle before – are now much more manageable. She has even challenged herself by going out to places she would never have visited prior to the course.

“I have been out on my own in my wheelchair to the shopping centre, something I would never had contemplated doing before going on a Back Up course.”

She soon hopes to go back to work part time but has already been giving back to Back Up by organising fundraising events including ‘dress down days’ and bake sales. She’s also organising an information day in September to spread the word about Back Up’s work and about spinal cord injury. Jackie has come so far over the past year and now she’s trying to ensure that no one goes through the experience she did. She truly is a Back Up champion.

If you or a loved one has a spinal cord injury and need support or information, please call our Outreach team on 020 8875 1805 or email them at (outreachandsupport@backuptrust.org.uk)

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