After attending the Buckinghamshire Sports Festival in 2022 it was great to welcome back George from Berkshire for the week long National Junior Games...
Alex is 35 years old and from Northamptonshire and he absolutely loves wheelchair archery. WheelPower were thrilled to be able to support Alex through the Wheelwrights Fund to purchase a new recurve bow and arrows to support his ongoing development in the sport. This is Alex’s story …
The Accident and Rehabilitation
On a cold snowy Winters day in 2018 Alex was driving his car home from work at low speed when he lost control and ended up skidding off the road. He explains further, “The Snow was really bad and I just lost track of where the road was and ended up in a ditch. The actual injury was caused by me trying to push my car back onto the road. It was a strange injury really, I felt a pop go in my neck, but I managed to get home, and was walking around fine until 6 days later when I went to get out of bed and I couldn’t walk.”
Alex was transferred to the Leicester Royal Infirmary where he spent his first three months before the rehabilitation continued at the National Spinal Injury Unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he spent a further 8 months.
“It was a bit of a shock at the time and it took me a long while to work out how I actually did the injury. Looking back I think I coped quite well with the injury and I had the right mentality throughout my time in hospital.”
Whilst at Stoke Mandeville Alex met WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor Bob O’Shea and remembers having the opportunity to try a variety of sports at the Stadium.
“Bob was an absolute massive help and I’m the same level as injury as him so obviously to see him playing rugby was really inspiring. We used to do circuits with him and resistance bands training and he was always a good laugh. There was always good banter and he was a really nice guy.”
“I was keen to try basketball and rugby after my injury but I couldn’t transfer into the sports chairs which ruled me out. I gave cricket a go, did a bit of badminton, table tennis, and remember trying archery at the Stadium too. I could barely hold the bow as the dexterity in my hands hadn’t come back, and I wasn’t as strong as I it is now. They held the bow and I tried to pull the string back. I didn’t get on amazingly with it but I thought perhaps in the future after more rehab this was a sport I could do.”
After spending almost a year in hospital Alex returned home and found it hard to adjust. His old house wasn’t suitable for wheelchair access and he slept in the living room. He continues, “Coming out of hospital was the hardest adjustment and I was quite isolated to say the least.”
“Not long after Covid hit and that meant I had to shield. I was stuck in one room for 18 months, was unable to exercise and the longer it went on the more it took a toll on my mental health. When my shielding ended I still wasn’t getting out much at all and needed something to get me motivated again.” Supporting others at work and discovering wheelchair Archery were both very important to Alex as we will hear in the rest of his story.
After trying Archery during his rehab Alex was keen to find somewhere local for him to give it another go, and as it happened there was a local range and club very close to home.
“I wanted to get out of the house and sport was something I was interested in doing. I think I realised that team sports are a bit further down the road for me and after my previous experience I was really keen to give archery a go again.
“I knew there was an archery range near to my house so I went up for a taster session and really enjoyed it. It was a perfect timing and because it was outside I wasn’t worried about covid and it was a welcome escape really.”
After the reintroduction to the sport at the end of 2021 Alex has become a regular at his local club and attends sessions all year round, shooting outside in the Summer and inside during the Winter.
“When we go back to shooting outside I’ll probably go 3 morning a week and it’s my excuse to get out and get some exercise. I was genuinely surprised how tired you can be after shooting 36 arrows! Its huge for me on the social side too, and I’ve met so many people and there’s a lot of banter. It means a hell of a lot to me because my mental health was shot to pieces really and I was almost scared to leave the house in the end. The benefits are huge in so many ways.”
Alex was developing his talent for the sport but in his own words, “couldn’t hit a barn door with the wooden bows he was borrowing from the club!” After hearing about the Wheelwrights Fund he was keen to apply and realise his dream of having his own bow and arrows.
"When I saw there was a grant available I thought it would be the icing on the cake if I get my own equipment. I was thinking about a compound bow but ultimately decided that I wanted it to be down to me to decide where the arrow went so I chose a recurve bow, I got the rider in blue (my favourite colour) and my arrows are blue and white to make it a bit personalised.”
“I can’t thank WheelPower enough and it’s just awesome what you do as a charity. This gift has given me a reason to get up and go out again. Archery equipment isn’t cheap and I would have had to save for a very long time to get the kit I’ve got now. It’s just nice that the bow and arrows are mine at the end of the day and it’s something I’m really proud of. Thank you.”