WheelPower's Ian Durrant, Physical Activity Advisor supports Thomas Miller at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

What would we do without WheelPower’s Physical Activity Advisors?

‘He’s invaluable, I think it would be a huge loss if Ian was not in post as WheelPower’s Physical Activity Advisor, no one can replace Ian or his work to help newly injured wheelchair users’,

That’s what Thomas Miller, 25 from Cambridge, expresses about his Physical Activity Advisor, Ian Durrant. Thomas gives us his account of how he first came to Stoke Mandeville Stadium after his accident and met Ian for the first time at Stoke Mandeville Hospital who has been indispensable in helping him lead a new healthy and active lifestyle as a wheelchair user.

‘Ian helped a lot, not just physically but mentally as well. He instils confidence in you, and he genuinely treats you like a friend, like a normal person. When you’re in hospital, you get treated like a just another patient, because you are a patient, and that can kind of suck a bit because you don’t quite feel like much of a person. However, I understand that hospital staff have to remain professional, that’s where Ian’s approach is in contrast, a huge benefit and general comfort. The way Ian talks to you and treats you, makes you feel a whole lot more welcome and like a friend’.

‘The first time I was in a wheelchair wheeling around, I was terrified I would fall out’, comments Thomas. ‘When I am with Ian, I feel far more confident and motivated because he’s got a lot of capabilities, skills, and life experience that I can learn from’, comments Thomas. ‘There aren’t that many people you can openly talk to in hospital. Having been through what I went through, there’s a lot of stuff that I need to get off my chest, and Ian offers that support, he’s always got time for you, and he really listens, to me I think that’s the best part about Ian, he’s been one of the most influential people in helping me recover’.

As with many of WheelPower’s Physical Activity Advisors, these roles are supported by the generous donations provided from all our stakeholders, including schools, rotary groups, corporate trusts, fundraising events, sponsorship, community groups and the general public. Without your support, none of this would be possible, and people like Thomas would not have access to this incredible support network.

On the Inter-Spinal Unit Games, one of WheelPower’s biggest accessible sporting events:

The Inter-Spinal Unit Games 2019 was awesome. You can get a chance to take part in sport, compete, and meet new people. For me the best part was meeting all the new people, I’ve met new friends at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the social aspect for wheelchair users here is immense. You meet all the other people from other spinal units. There aren’t many places where you can meet other wheelchair users out in the real world and standard communities, where you can feel completely at ease and like yourself. Here, at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and the WheelPower’s Inter-Spinal Unit Games, you don’t feel any different to anyone else.

A word from Ian Durrant, WheelPower’s Physical Activity Advisor:

We spoke to Ian Durrant to find out his thought about how is work has transformed lives.

Ian works at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Stadium every Tuesday.

‘The way I see it is that my role is two-fold, it serves to spend time with in-patient, there’s also a practical side to what I do, using a wheelchair isn’t as easy as it may seem. There’s also a lot of elements going on, a life-changing injury affects all aspects of your life and usually people need try and rationilse about that event. I think it’s useful and valuable for people to express themselves and talk about their issues, and equally talking to someone like myself who has experienced life in a wheelchair.

Tom says – a physio doesn’t have the experience of life in a wheelchair, they do it by the textbook.

Ian understands the importance of adapting. ‘If you need to use your teeth, to get things done, so be it!’, jokes Ian. A WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor can offer the real-life angle in a way that a standard Physiotherapist cannot.

What’s a Typical Day for a WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor like?

In a typical day, I see five or six patients in one day at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) based at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I‘ll spend about an hour with them each. I will tailor the sessions to individuals needs. You get to see people for a number of weeks and months so you get to build a good relationship and bit of a rappore over time. Whatever I can do help them physically and emotionally that’s all good.  For me, I love doing this job. The NHS is an amazing resource in this country, but it doesn’t cover all aspects of spinal cord injury recovery. I feel that my role fills that gap with life experience-led support – it’s powerful and useful – the kind of thing that the NHS cannot provide.

Without the help of Physical Activity Advisors, you could argue that it could cost the NHS far more and patients would take longer to recover mentally and physically to go back into society.