Rob Maddison: Adapting to spinal cord injury
Posted by: The personal injury help and advice team
After being diagnosed with a rare spinal tumour ten years ago, musician Rob Maddison shares his story with the Personal Truths team.
What did you find most challenging during your recovery?
The tumour effectively crushed my spinal cord so it was actually a very gradual process of discovering how much I’d be capable of doing physically from then on. It was quite surreal and there was definitely a fear of the unknown. The first few months at Nottingham Queens Medical Spinal Ward were all about basic physical survival on a daily basis.
I had two major operations and then got a serious case of pneumonia which very nearly finished me off. After Nottingham, I was sent to Sheffield to a specialist spinal injuries unit where I was to spend the next three months recovering and learning to be as independent as possible, which involved long days of physiotherapy as well as occupational therapy.
I think of my recovery as ongoing and the toughest challenge has definitely been dealing with the psychological effects of the trauma surrounding such a drastic life event.
Do you feel you received enough support and advice?
I was fortunate enough to spend time at the Spinal Injury Unit in Sheffield which was like its own mini hospital, where I had access to an amazing team of physios, occupational therapists and psychologists as well as a bunch of spinal consultants.
And on top of that, I had my amazing family and friends with me every step of the way. A really great thing about the SIU in Sheffield was being with other patients facing similar challenges; this created a kind of support group amongst us.
There were also visits by volunteers from charities such as the Spinal Injuries Association and the Back Up Trust, who had all previously suffered spinal injuries. They were great at showing that rehab isn’t forever and there’s still amazing things to be done and experience in life.
What accomplishments do you take pride in, that you didn’t feel you could achieve following diagnosis?
First and foremost is having a family of my own. I got married to my partner about a year after leaving rehab and we now have an awesome five year old boy. I never thought that’d still be on the cards!
I was certainly worried about how much I was going to be able to achieve in terms of my music career, but I’ve just gone into super-overdrive and pushed myself to the point where I’ve now travelled the world playing music, so that is a real big one.
There were also things that I had never even considered before, like working with the music charity Attitude Is Everything, who champion the right of deaf and disabled people’s access to music.
And, completely out of character for me, I took up skiing! I remember seeing a photo of a sit-skier hanging on the wall of the rehab physio department and thought, “hey, that looks ace.” So after a few years, I got in touch with Disability Snowsport who run adaptive skiing lessons and started to learn how to use a mono-ski. I’ve been skiing for four years now and I’m completely addicted to it.
What are your upcoming plans? Where can we expect to see you in the future?
I’m currently writing and performing as the artist ‘Revenge of Calculon’ and we’re releasing a couple of 7” singles early next year, so there’s a lot of work going into developing a new live show and shooting a music promo video to go with it.
I’ll also continue doing some work with Attitude is Everything, focusing on industry access for disabled musicians.
If you could go back to the time of your injury, what advice would you give your younger self? What would you tell people in a similar position?
I would probably tell myself that there will be huge challenges ahead, but there are also amazing opportunities to be had and change does not always have to be entirely bad.
There will be new skills to learn and you’re going to have to think creatively, but life does not stop just because part of your body doesn’t work anymore. You are still you.
Next week, we chat to Rob about his profession as a musician, music as a form of therapy and accessibility within the music industry. For useful resources and support on spinal injury, click here.