A spinal cord injury can happen at any time, to anyone, and on September 13 2014, Chris Collings from Yeovil had a fall in his garden and suffered a broken neck and damage to his spinal cord leaving him with a C4 and C5 incomplete spinal cord injury.
He said: “I landed on my head and broke my neck. All I remember is waking up in my garden and not being able to move my body from the neck down.”
Chris was found by a neighbour, drifting in and out of consciousness and taken to Yeovil District Hospital before being transferred to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit at Salisbury hospital.
“I can’t remember much until I woke up in hospital the following Monday morning unable to move my arms and legs. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
Chris then had to go through a painful two and a half hour journey by ambulance from Yeovil to Salisbury Hospital, where he received numerous scans before starting his initial treatment of lying flat on his back for six weeks to allow the spinal cord to recover.
After about a month the swelling around his spinal cord had started to reduce and he slowly started to regain feeling in his arms, hands and legs.
Six weeks post injury, laid flat in bed, Chris was fitted for his wheelchair. Although he had regained some movement back in his legs, it was still unknown if Chris would walk again.
He said: “All I was being told by the staff was ‘I have a life changing injury’”
“I wouldn’t take any negativity. When doctors and nurses told me that it was unknown if I’d ever walk again, I didn’t want to believe them. I knew I would.
“For me, it was a case of trying to take control of this life changing injury, and I made it my goal that when I was discharged from hospital, I would walk out by myself.”
Six weeks later, and 12 weeks post-injury, along with a huge amount of physio and hard work, Chris surpassed all expectations and met his goal, walking out of the hospital doors unaided.
“It was a struggle, and very emotional at times because of the unknown, but I achieved my goal. “Almost three years on and walking has become a much easier task for me. There are daily struggles and issues associated with a spinal cord injury, but overall, I’m doing well.
“My attitude is, take each day as it comes.”
Despite suffering from severe hypersensitivity of the skin, which often leaves Chris in excruciating pain, he has made the brave decision to take part in the Aspire Channel Swim this year.
“I’ve decided to challenge myself and my disability to raise money for others with a spinal cord injury.
“I’ve wanted to do something for a worthwhile cause, and for something that is close to my heart. “I’m finding swimming is helping me to get stronger all over and I don’t seem to feel much pain in the pool – it’s really helping with my rehab and overall well-being.
“A spinal cord injury is an extremely complicated injury, affecting people in very differenta life changing injury and it’s up to you how you let it change your life.”
You can sign up to the 2017 Aspire Channel Swim here: https://www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk/