Seven year teach.

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So, THE anniversary came and went two weeks ago. This is certainly the latest I have left it to observe the date on here. The date in question was, of course, the 1st of April. The day of fools. The day that I broke my spine, and found myself embarking on a dramatic and terrifying journey as I struggled to cope with the change in direction that my life took.

That was seven years ago, and so much has changed since then. I have written a book, embarked on a new career as a journalist, become a father (twice) and completely given up using ladders and tap dancing.

This year, I found myself spending the 1st of April deeply involved in training a new crop of wheelchair skills instructors for Back Up. It was an intense and tiring weekend, but very rewarding. Passing on the skills that I have gained felt like a great way to mark the seventh anniversary.

It's been an interesting journey, and an empowering one (I know I have mentioned it before, not least for The Guardian, but it's my anniversary , so indulge me). When I think back to my first encounter with Back Up, when Dave Ball and Sean McCallion came into the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville, it had a big impression on me. Their accomplished wheelchair skills were impressive, but as important was hearing about places they had been, and plans they were making to go skiing, or pushing up Mount Snowdon.

A few years later I jumped at the opportunity to get involved as a volunteer wheelchair skills instructor, and soon learned that being 'an example' is an integral part of the programme. I don't mean that to sound boastful. The example we offer is that we are getting on with stuff. That stuff may be different with each instructor you meet, but the desire to maximise the potential in what we 'have left' is a common denominator.

So now I find myself alongside Sean (and Stuart, Lucy and Michael), helping a new bunch of wheelchair users to get involved as instructors. I was reminded of the awkward self-consciousness I felt when I first tried to present a session. I remembered being convinced that I would make a complete mess of going down two steps, and end up in a tangled heap of limbs under my wheelchair at the bottom (I haven't yet). But I also remembered going into the spinal centre and looking at a room full of newly injured people and wondering if I could possibly offer them the shift in perspective that Back Up offered me seven years ago.

In some ways, very little has changed in the time since my accident. I still have no feeling below the waist. I am still engaged in a constant battle with neuropathic pain. I still spend a little time every day thinking about the things that I can longer do. I still haven't been skiing.

But there are also many things that have changed. I don't view my life since as a consolation, spent gazing at the floor or looking wistfully out of the window (there was a bit of that in the first few weeks).  I'm confidently independent. I'm following a different (and enjoyable) career path. While I still have my beloved Penny, I also have two children to dote over.
Most importantly, my eyes are more often on the future than the past.


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