‘Aren’t you doing well’ says the patronising drunk after I respond to his question of why I’m in a wheelchair – I hate that term as I’m not actually in it; I use it!
Maybe I didn’t have a choice; perhaps I am not doing well; maybe I’m just getting on with it and not dwelling on the thought that I cannot walk, or climb a tree, or ride a bike – which I miss!
After the initial realisation, which brought tears of sadness, and disbelief that I had sustained a spinal cord injury, life needed to carry on. It was a new start for me. I only left school for one year, and the catastrophe happened; maybe it was the second new beginning for me?!
On my hospital on my day of discharge, there was an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals. Apart from one, get a job, get back to earning some dosh!
After my release from the hospital, I had to live in the front room. This accommodation possibly assisted with building my courage to get out of the house. With my TV, wardrobe, stereo available, and standing frame tucked in the corner; it was my bedroom. Walls had my mum’s pictures hanging from them; ornaments sat on the shelves tucked either side of the chimney breast. I didn’t feel I had my own space, privacy. To get away from this, I went out every day. Being grateful to come home to a loving home, at nearly 18 years old, I wanted more of something; I didn’t know what?!
On the road
It took me 18 months to pass my driving test and find employment. I was keen to get back to work and be financially independent. After an interview at the job centre to discuss my options, my employment advisor sent me on a training course in Aylesbury to learn electronic assembly. Part of which involved using a soldering iron – I remember these from school!
Aylesbury. I only knew of this town because of my hospital admittance. The National Spinal Injuries Centre is a department of the hospital on the edge of this town.
Attending the course, my feelings were a little whitewashed. It felt like being back at school – which I didn’t like. Luckily a company from across the road came over and discussed a plan with the tutor. They had opportunities for a position to learn as you worked. I jumped at the chance.
This job resulted in me getting up at 5 am every day. Allow enough time to get ready and then taking on the 20-mile drive to the assembly line.
This job involved working on a production line to make mobile phone antennas. After an eight hour day, I had a 40 / 60-minute journey home. They were long days. It felt rewarding to earn my own money and pay board.
The ending job for new beginnings
After working there for several years, the company relocated, and my job was no longer viable. Over the years employed there, I had developed good skills, moved up the employment line resulting in being the Prototype PCB Engineer. I was independent. My confidence was growing. In my spare time, I had started voluntarily supporting others to develop their skills.
Fast forward 20 plus years. I am now dedicated to teaching wheelchair skills to anyone. People who need to grow their independence levels and develop their confidence!