Hi I’m Kevin Dwyer,

I’m a 42 year old man and I have recently taken a completely new direction in life as a Public Speaker and NLP Practitioner, speaking in schools to secondary students about having a positive mindset and the power of the mind.  This switch of careers has been inspired due to a life changing experience: I had a spinal cord injury.  On the 5th of May, 2013, I was just coming out of the bathroom when I passed out and fell over. I fell forward and landed on a box causing me to hyper extend my neck. I initially had no feeling in either hand and was paralysed from the waist down, however after some intensive rehabilitation – at St Georges Hospital, Tooting and Stoke Mandeville spinal unit – I soon regained some feeling in my hands and legs.

I feel incredibly blessed to be able to walk, even if only for short distances because I might not have been so fortunate. Every day I am thankful for the small things because I firmly believe we are the architects of our lives and it is our duty to make the most of every situation.

I went on the Next Steps course because I had previously been on another Back Up course and the experience was invaluable. I think the main reason that this course appealed to me was the opportunity to spend a few days with other people with a spinal cord injury who can walk. I wanted to understand how everyday life had changed for others, their trials and tribulations, how they coped on a day to day basis and if things I experienced were common to others, or whether it was just me. I honestly couldn’t have made a better decision!

The banter and camaraderie between a bunch of strangers, that built up straight from the outset, was incredible. It felt as though we were handpicked to be there together because we gelled almost instantaneously.  Scott and Holly had clearly put a great deal of thought into the structure of the course because from the first night things seemed to have a pretty natural flow. There were activities that allowed us to get to know one another and at times we had some pretty deep conversations. Other times we would be laughing for hours and the evening out at the comedy club was a stroke of genius.

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There was one thing in particular I wanted to get from the course:

I am able to walk, but the distance I can cover is very limited and I had never actually been out in public in a wheelchair.  It could have been fear, uncertainty, my own limiting beliefs, who knows? But I had never accomplished that and I was determined to do so.

Well the very next day we were split into two teams for a scavenger hunt and sent off on a mission to complete tasks on a list, requiring us to travel all over Bath town centre. There was only a slight element of competitiveness between the teams, well maybe a tiny bit more than slight.  One thing I was sure of was that I could never have covered the distance we did on foot so I had no choice but to run, metaphorically speaking, head on into my self-set goal.  Having a wheelchair skills trainer in our group gave me a huge amount of confidence, and allowed me to take on the challenge of being out in public in a wheelchair for the first time. I can’t thank Jacques enough for being right there whenever I needed him.

Post course, there has still been a great deal of contact between the participants which is really nice.  I am definitely more confident going out in my wheelchair when I need to so that’s also been a great takeaway for me.

My plans are to get involved with Back Up wherever possible, not just as a course attendee but hopefully as a volunteer so can I help contribute to their great work. What Back Up do for people with spinal cord injury really, really changes lives and, in my humble opinion, can’t be recognised highly enough.

If you’d like to find out more about our two Next Steps courses running next year, or any of our other residential courses, please click here or email Andy (Andy@backuptrust.org.uk)

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