Checking the balance

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So, first up: Happy New Year. Yes, it's been an age, and I have a number of excuses lined up, but none of them are particularly strong, so let's just move on, shall we?

I am pretty exhausted, mind, but that's the result of a weekend spent training up another new tranche of wheelchair skills instructors for the very lovely people at Back Up.

It's very satisfying to be able to contribute to the programme in this way, and nice to know that I can still make a decent fist of teaching. I used to train people in a professional capacity in a previous life. By this I mean before my spinal cord injury, not when I was stonemason to Hatshepsut in 1450 b.c. Because I wasn't).

But what I have found particularly interesting about the weekend just gone, is how passing on these skills makes me reflect on my feelings when I deliver a session. Many of the wheelchair skills sessions that I deliver tend to involve working with one or two individuals in general hospitals or other units. The participants are part of a widening group of individuals who have very little contact with any of the 13 specialist spinal centres in the UK.

There are a number of reasons why this might happen; it could be a lack of available beds at the time of injury; they may have complex other medical issues; it could even be the result of an attempt by their health trust to keep the funding in-house.

But whatever the reason, these people miss out on many essential components of rehabilitation, including knowledge and resources that can have a big effect on their ability to reach their full potential post-injury. Part of what we do is to offer a glimpse of what life might be like; the everyday, driving a car, going on holiday with the family, flying long-haul; just mentioning these things in conversation can have a real impact.

I used to find these encounters emotionally exhausting. Discussing the predicament other find themselves in can quickly shift the glass-half-full perspective that many of us rely on to get through the day. But with experience, I have found that I can sense the post session dip and keep myself busy and distracted. And for the last two years, I have enjoyed the process of training a new crop of wheelchair skills instructors. As well as a sense of satisfaction that comes with teaching anyone anything, the process of trainer training gives me a reminder of just how valuable the wheelchair skills programme is. It's also good to be reminded that I am not alone, and getting together with other instructors of a similar experience is a great way of recharging the emotional batteries.

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It's interesting what you mention about how you feel after your training sessions. I work in a different field (supervising young offenders) but I experience similar feelings after each session. I haven't yet found a way to cope with those feelings, many times due to transfered emotions. Good to read you again.

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