Hi, I’m Brian a retired Financial Services Executive from Halifax. I took my last steps on this earth at about 9.15am on Sunday the 4th August 2013. There… that’s got your attention I imagine! So, let me explain.
I was looking forward to retiring quite early and I’d always been a keen cyclist. So, I was planning to cycle with my mate all the way from Halifax to Southern Spain. What an adventure we were going to have! The only trouble was I had ‘let myself go’ a bit, so some training was in order. My wife and I had been out in Manchester with a couple of friends on the Saturday night. We stayed over at their house in Derbyshire and I planned to cycle the 33 miles home on the Sunday morning as the weather forecast looked good.
So, the next morning at 9.15 I kissed my wife goodbye and mounted my shiny new touring bicycle for the gentle ride home. Exactly one mile later I got into a spot of bother. I can’t be 100% certain but I remember being ‘muscled’ into the side of the road by an impatient driver who thought he had to get past me. I skidded on some grit, wobbled and then scraped along the stone wall to my left. The problem was, the stone wall was very low so I flipped over it. I then flew through the air backwards down an embankment until I hit a tree full on. I then fell face down into a shallow, fast-flowing river some 20ft below.
Not looking good this, is it?! Well, I somehow managed to get my face out of the water and I now know someone waded into the river to help me, but I didn’t know this at the time. I knew I was very badly hurt and I kept drifting in and out of consciousness but I remained calm. I said goodbye to my wife, my kids, my mum and myself… and that was the last thing I remember.
A few hours later my wife got the phone call telling her to get to Manchester Royal Infirmary without delay. My catalogue of injuries was so huge that I really shouldn’t have survived. But I did and a few weeks later, when I came out of an induced coma, I saw her from my ICU bed at Salford Royal. I was a T9 paraplegic with no possibility of regaining use of my legs and generally very poorly but I was alive. Then, quite a few weeks later I was transferred to Pinderfields Spinal Unit, in Wakefield to start my rehabilitation.
Two weeks short of a full year after the accident, I came home – albeit to a house I didn’t really know as my wife had managed the process of buying and renovating a bungalow whilst I was in hospital. Then the long road to recovery began. Six years on I am reasonably active. Of course, there are many difficulties in day to day living but life is good. When you know you shouldn’t really be here, getting a second chance feels amazing!
Retirement was inevitable after the accident I suppose, but I was ready for it. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my only Grandson, Charles who was just 6 months old at the time of my accident. All the time I was I hospital I worried about how he would react to me as he got a bit bigger. What if he didn’t want to play with me? How would I keep him amused? I needn’t have worried of course as he accepts me on face value. He calls me ‘Grandad Wheels’ and we have lots of fun together.
Grandad Wheels… Grandad Wheels…that gave me an idea. I’ve always been quite good with words, so I wrote a short story for him. Essentially, it’s all about what happens when he reaches 6 and he suddenly wants to know why I’m different to other grandads. I make up some nonsense about getting injured whilst fighting a lion! He thinks I’m sad because I don’t get to have any adventures in a wheelchair… and to change this he ends up pushing me into a skateboard park! So, ‘The Adventures of Grandad Wheels!’ begin. Family and friends who read the story said I should write more and make them available for others to enjoy.
So, I’ve now written 5 books in total and plan to self-publish them, starting with the first one ‘Charlie’s Big Idea!’ in November! They are being beautifully illustrated by a local artist, Lynne Hickin and they aim to make children have a good laugh at what this silly grandad gets up to with grandson Charlie. The message is simple, anyone in a wheelchair can have fun and be fun to be with. Although Lynne and I are funding all the costs ourselves anything we make over our production costs will be shared with two major charities that help people with spinal injuries – The Spinal Injuries Association and Back Up.
So, the message from me is that there is definitely life after spinal injury. It’s hard, but different things reward you so much. I would never have imagined I would be an author and even if the books only sell in small numbers a lot of good will come from it. And I can’t wait to see Charles’ face when he sees us on the cover of a real book in a shop window!
You can contact Brian by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or tel 07770 643562
You can learn more about this project and buy the books at www.grandadwheels.com
Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/grandadwheels
Grandad Wheels is available for school visits