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Trailblazer: Laura's Story
- Court Of Protection
After being diagnosed with Scoliosis at the age of ten, Laura was due to have surgery the following year to straighten her spine.
During the operation, however, a serious medical mistake was made which resulted in Laura suffering a spinal cord injury and she was left paralysed. The blood supply to Laura’s spine was cut off during the surgery, which resulted in a complete injury at the T2/T4 level.
“I woke up paralysed… I was only 11 at the time, and it was really hard to get used to.”
Laura says one of the hardest parts of suffering a spinal cord injury at a such young age was the loneliness that came with it. After staying in a spinal centre for 12 months, between years six and seven at school, she found it particularly hard to settle in when she eventually did return to the classroom.
“All of a sudden I was known as ‘the girl in the wheelchair’. I was made fun of, which resulted in a massive loss of confidence and self-esteem.”
Things didn’t stay that way for long, however. Laura came across the charity Back Up – who offer a “diverse range of services for everyone affected by spinal cord injury including wheelchair skills training, mentoring, family support and support returning to work and education.”
After attending one of the charity’s multi activity courses for young people, Laura’s confidence soared. She was able to try out the adaptive activities on offer at Back Up, such as abseiling and canoeing - but perhaps most importantly, she was able to interact with other young people in similar situations. This gave her the confidence to go back to school and make new friends.
Laura’s experience with Back Up’s also inspired her to follow a career path in outdoor and sporting activities – something she had a passion for prior to her spinal cord injury. After graduating with a degree in Outdoor Studies from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2017, Laura started working at Able2Adventure – “a specialist adventure activity provider for disabled people who use adaptive equipment and a flexible/compassionate approach to make the outdoors accessible to all”.
Now, aged 26, Laura has taken her love of outdoor and sporting activities one step further by co-founding ‘Trailblazer: The Wheelchair Adventure Race’ - an initiative which aims to provides adventure challenges to people of all abilities and ages.
The concept came about after Laura and her colleagues from Able2Adventure took a trip to Cairngorms, Scotland and noticed the potential of the trails throughout the area for off road wheelchair users. After riding the trails in their own wheelchairs as a team, Laura and co. realised that they could create the UK’s first off road wheelchair race.
The philosophy behind Trailblazer is to provide adventure challenges that are accessible to all, no matter what an individual’s abilities or age may be. The team have researched routes that will be completely accessible so that every participant can feel reassured that the event is suitable for them.
It’s still early days for the project - the team have a route; they have interest and now the next steps are to source funding. In the long term, Laura hopes Trailblazer will expand into different adventure challenges for a range of disabilities.
“It’s exciting but nerve wracking to be embarking on a venture that is at the heart of everything I’ve studied and worked towards for years; that being greater access and inclusion for disabled people outdoors. There’s already proof that events and programs like this are needed by our society, and we just need that little boost in the early days to make the UK’s first ever wheelchair adventure race, the first of many.”
I act as Laura’s professional Trustee and help manage her compensation fund. Laura is an absolute pleasure to advise. She is extremely sensible and understands that her damages are required for her long-term future. She always takes the advice provided by myself and her financial advisor on board and budgets her lifestyle accordingly.
It does not surprise me that Laura is so heavily involved in the Trailblazer project. Her passion for outdoor activities and enabling equal opportunities for wheelchair users is second to none. She’s an absolute inspiration and I hope that the project is a huge success which will lead to wheelchairs users from all over the country being able to enjoy accessible routes and experience challenges like the route Laura is promoting!
If you would like to help out Laura and the Trailblazer team, or you would like further information on the UK’s first ever off-road wheelchair adventure race, please take a look at the team’s Crowdfunder page.