Wheelwrights Fund 2020 - Roman's Story

Roman is 59 years old and from Cambridgeshire, where he lives with his wife. Roman has two grown up girls whom he is immensely proud of and who last year raised over £2000 for WheelPower by running the Lode half marathon.

 After working in the Food Industry as a senior manager for over 30 years, Roman changed direction, due to ongoing mobility issues and latterly he has been working in the Charity Sector as a Fundraiser.

As Roman explains, “I had a previous illness back in 1999 called Sarcoid, found in my lower spine which affected my mobility and balance, resulting in having to walk with a stick.”

In November 2018, completely out of the blue Roman was hospitalised after falling ill at home. Following an emergency MRI scan, the doctors discovered a spinal cyst located at T7D and he was operated on within 24 hours. Roman subsequently spent the next 8 months in hospital in Cambridge and at the Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Injuries Centre where he received specialist care and rehabilitation.

“The spinal injury has left me in need of a wheelchair and intermittent self-catheterisation. I am however fully independent and can drive an automatic car with no adaptations. I lead as much of an active life as I can and I continue to be optimistic about my mobility and the future. Since July of last year I have been back at home concentrating on my ongoing rehabilitation, with progress being slow but sure. If I can one day walk with a stick again I will be very happy.”

Whilst at Stoke Mandeville Roman met up regularly with Physical Activity Advisor Ian Durrant, who was employed by WheelPower to support patients within the unit. As part of the rehabilitation programme Roman was given the opportunity to take part in weekly hand cycling sessions on the famous Stoke Mandeville Stadium track and in his own words he has been ‘hooked’ ever since.

Ian Durrant explains, “Once Roman realised what modern hand cycles were (and how much fun they are!) he attended weekly sessions without fail. Each week he got stronger and was able to get more and more benefit. Hand cycling isn’t easy to begin with but Roman showed what can be achieved with perseverance and a bit of support.”

Roman says, “It was Ian who really sold hand cycling to me. I would attend the taster sessions every week! It not only helped maintain my cardio fitness, but it was also so much fun. I loved hand cycling and most importantly it was something I could do.”

After returning home Roman has developed his love of hand cycling further and continues to attend taster days with the Hand Cycling Association. The association also loaned him a second hand bike but he had always hoped, from those early days of taking up the sport, that one day he could have a bike of his own.  

During his rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville it was the WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor who introduced Roman to the Wheelwrights fund and led to the application being submitted into the 2020 round of funds for a new hand cycle.

“As the cost of buying a brand new hand cycle was prohibitive, I searched on line and I was lucky enough to find a second hand bike on social media. With additional financial support from members of my family, as well as the generous grant that I received from the Wheelwrights fund, I was able to buy a Top End Force Rx sport bike that was exactly what I was looking for.”

Roman took ownership of his new hand cycle in March 2020 and is so happy to now have his own bike. As he continues, “I am now able to go on bike rides with my able bodied family, whilst at the same time maintaining and improving my cardio fitness. Once I reach a better standard, I very much hope to join in with other hand cyclists who ride in around Cambridgeshire.”

During the extended period of lockdown the freedom that his new hand cycle brings has allowed Roman to go on short rides around his village and with the use of some rollers he has also been able to maintain his fitness and continue his rehabilitation whilst indoors to. 

With a growing passion for the sport Roman has been made the honorary secretary for the Hand cycling Association UK and supports the organisation in many ways, including encouraging others to come along to the regular taster days and try the sport that has now become such a big part of his life.

Roman now looks forward to a time where the restrictions ease and he can join other people in the community for longer rides on his hand cycle and really test his new bike to its fullest! He is also looking to do a charity challenge and was due to take part in the British Cycling event at Silverstone where he would have met fellow hand cyclists as they sped around the track!

Over many years the Wheelwrights Fund has provided individuals within five years of a spinal injury the opportunity to apply for money, for any equipment or activities to help them to stay active, get active, and to help people just like Roman achieve their sporting potential.  

 “I am indebted to WheelPower and the Wheelwrights for helping me to buy a hand cycle and for allowing me the opportunity to take up a great hobby that also lets me go cycling with my family and more importantly to help me keep fit.”

The Handcycling Association UK run regular taster days during the Spring/Summer months.  These are ‘open days’ where those interested can try the sport, using our own handcycles, in a safe environment, supervised by qualified British Cycling instructors.  These days are aimed toward beginners, we also invite experienced handcyclists so there is always plenty of expertise around to learn from. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve never ridden a handcycle before, you can borrow one of ours for the weekend. Further details can be found by having a look at the Handcycling UK website.

The Wheelwrights Fund is open to anyone who has acquired a spinal cord injury within the past five years. You are able to apply for any money for any equipment or activities to help you stay active, get active, or help you achieve your sporting potential. The funding has been made available through the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights, in association with National Tyre Distributors Association. Find out more: The Wheelwrights Fund 2020