Working with a WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor to get active during rehabilitation ..

Archer is 17 years old and from Hertfordshire. Before his injury he was completing his A-levels at the local sixth form and enjoying a very active lifestyle, playing rugby and going to the gym.

But in November 2023, after undergoing complex back surgery he acquired a spinal cord injury at T4/5. He spent the following month at the UCL hospital in Queen Square before getting transferred to the London Spinal Injuries Centre at Stanmore where he spent the next three months.

During his rehabilitation he worked closely with the physio team and met WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor Mark O’Neill who supported him to stay active and improve his fitness. He was able to try many sports during his time at the spinal unit, that included his namesake – Archery!

“Mark was really welcoming and helped show me how to start training in the gym again. Initially I was extremely sceptical about the sports sessions expecting them to be underwhelming and unappealing, however after my first session they instantly became the highlights of my week. They gave me something to look forward to and really helped me bond with other patients too. It was good to try lots of new sports and it really brought out my competitive side!”

“All the sporting opportunities were extremely entertaining, I had fun learning new activities like boccia, shooting, badminton and archery (pictured). Archery was a fun experience that you don’t get to do all that often so I made the most of the session and competing with other patients made it all the more fun.”

Mark O’Neill has been the WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor at the Stanmore Spinal Unit for over 10 years where he supports and encourages patients to get active and enjoy sport following a life changing injury. On working with Archer he said, “He was a great person to work with, very knowledgeable about a variety of sports and is well aware of the benefits of sport and physical activity. He is, and I’m sure will continue to be, an excellent athlete. In all the sports he took part in such as archery, shooting and golf, he showed a natural aptitude and a willingness to learn. Except for Boccia, that he will be the first to admit that he wasn’t the best at that! He got on really well with everyone at the hospital and we’re hoping that he’ll be part of the Stanmore team at this year’s WheelPower Inter Spinal Games in September.”

Archer left the spinal unit in March 2024 and has returned home to continue his rehabilitation, and back to exams before considering what he would like to do next.

He continues, “At the moment I am focusing on my exams which are just around the corner but once those are over my aim is to get straight back into sport. I have recently taken up swimming as it is a good way for me to stay active but once I have the time I would like to try as many different sports as I can.”

“The WheelPower sport sessions have really opened my mind to all the different sporting possibilities out there and I believe sport is an incredible way to make new friends and keep healthy, not just physically but mentally. WheelPower and their activity advisors like Mark do an incredible job at getting everyone involved and making sport accessible for all.”

Find out more about the WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor’s and how they support patients with spinal cord injuries to benefit from movement, activity and sport following a life changing injury:

WheelPower Physical Activity Advisors

WheelPower’s Guide to An Active Life following Spinal Cord Injury

We have recently created a new booklet for all patients with spinal cord injuries that introduce them to the support, events and resources available from WheelPower, as well as some handy tips and links to movement, sport and activity opportunities when they leave the hospital environment.