Four years ago, Joe had dreams of becoming a rock star. But a blood clot caused a stroke, which left him paralysed from the neck down. Joe experienced depression during his rehabilitation, but he managed to come through it and he’s in a much better place now. He believes that with a bit of forward planning, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
‘‘It’s all about finding new ways that I can do things. When I went on the 13-17s multi activity course with Back Up, I did things I never thought I’d be able to do like abseiling, zip wire, sailing – there were so many things I just didn’t think would be possible.’’
Joe, 19, is now a Back Up youth advisor, which involves shaping the direction of our youth services. He is also at university, studying events management, and spends his time planning events for societies and charities as well as socialising with his friends.
He recently attended Reading music festival which was a huge milestone for him. Joe planned well in advance: he ensured the site was accessible, discussed electricity requirements for his hoist, and got a risk assessment. This meant that Joe could enjoy himself at the festival and – despite some challenges – it was a truly unforgettable experience.
‘‘The highlight was seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m a big fan and they were really amazing. I was really proud of myself for coming and my mates were too. They were so chuffed to see me there.’’
Joe now has his sights set on his next festival and a career as an events manager. For Joe, it’s all about thinking how to approach things differently, rather than dwelling on what you can’t do.
‘‘Never give up because you can still have great fun. Things will be different to how you used to do them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. You just need to look at it a different way’’.
Laura was only 11 years old when a mistake during a routine operation left her paralysed from the chest down. The experience turned Laura’s life upside down, but she has never let her injury stop her from getting the most out of life.
She likes to go to as many festivals as possible and has been to Reading three times! Her first concert was ‘T in the Park’ back in 2013. Before that, she hadn’t been camping for more than a day and had a few concerns about the festival.
‘‘I was worried about using portaloos and if there would be accessible showers. I also didn’t know how I’d fare being amongst big crowds in rough terrain – what if I fell out of my chair?’’
Laura had a strong support network in her friends and they sat down beforehand and made a plan to cover all eventualities. She decided to bring extra catheters and medication as well as clothes for all kinds of weather.
‘‘I rang up T in the Park to apply for a space in the accessible camping site and a car parking space nearby. They had so much great information and sent me a personalised email about accessible showers and other facilities – it really set me at ease.’’
Laura has some very fond memories of her first festival, and had a great time with her friends and cousins, going to different venues and seeing her favourite bands.
‘It was probably the best weekend I’d had in a long time. I’ve got so many good memories.’
Laura recommends doing a lot of research before going to a festival to ensure you have the best time possible.
‘‘Have a look at what other people are saying and email the organisers. Attitude is Everything is a great website that reviews music venues and has volunteers on site at concerts. If you’re a power chair user, they even have charging points. They also have toilets where you can use your hoist.’’
Laura is just about to finish her degree in outdoor studies and is currently right in the middle of her dissertation. But she still plans to squeeze in a festival or two – if she has the time!
Please contact Ella (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out more about becoming a youth advisor and other volunteering opportunities for under 18s.
Save the date: ‘Back Up Fest’, the brain child of the Youth Advisory Group, is happening on 19th August 2017. It will be a family fun day for anyone affected by spinal cord injury to come together, enjoy live music, food and lots more. Email Kat (Katherine@backuptrust.org.uk) or call her on 020 8875 1805 to find out more.