Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Simon B

Age at interview: 42

Brief outline: Simon sustained his spinal injury when he was 25. He was travelling in Australia when he broke his neck after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool. He is now a C6 tetraplegic.

Background: Simon is single and lives alone. He works as a community peer support/outreach officer with the Spinal Injuries Association, supporting Londoners with spinal injuries. Ethnic background' White British.

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Simon was working in retail banking in 1994 when he took some time off to travel round the world with his then girlfriend and work out what he wanted to do with his life. He said' “I did change my life, but not really how I expected to”. He is now a C6 tetraplegic, (this refers to the top part of his spine in his neck that was broken).
Whilst in Australia, Simon dived into the shallow end of a swimming pool, broke his neck and started to drown. He was taken to hospital in a specialist spinal ambulance and went straight to spinal intensive care where his injury was treated using a technique called conservative management, which meant he did not have surgery. He was flown back to the UK and spent a further nine months in hospital. He describes how the time spent confined to bed in hospital allowed him to think about being injured and helped the psychological process of getting used to being injured. 
Simon says that everyone’s spinal injury is different. His affects his skin, bladder and bowels, so he has to manage and take care of these to prevent problems arising. He manages his bowel issues by controlling his diet and takes care to check for pressure sores on his skin. He had a permanent catheter installed to manage his bladder. He initially tried an intermittent catheter, but his limited hand function made this difficult, so he decided to have an indwelling (permanent) one inserted. According to Simon, “aesthetically it’s grim, but it works”. 
Initially, after his injury, Simon felt he lost all control and became a patient; “You lose your dignity, your sense of identity and to reclaim that psychologically is quite hard. You have to reclaim who you are.”
Simon wants other people not to give up after spinal cord injury and says, “Just allow for things to take time”. He says there are a lot of things he can do in spite of being paralysed. Since his injury, he works, has had relationships and does lots of things he enjoys. He likes to ski using a dual ski and says that skiing is something he can do with able-bodied people and “disability is irrelevant”. 



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