28 year old Dean is from Reading and he’s always been a sporty person. Since being a kid he lived a very active lifestyle, playing football, cycling, swimming and golf. In August 2021 Dean’s life changed after falling from a hotel balcony whilst in Cyprus.

Dean playing table tennis

“I fell from a balcony on the day of my best mate’s wedding. I couldn’t have the whole day about them and felt slightly jealous! (he jokes) I had surgery and was in Nicosia Hospital before getting the fit to fly to come back to the UK and being closer to home. I was at my local hospitals in Berkshire for a further 11 weeks before finally getting to the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville where I was for 5 months during my rehabilitation.”

Dean has a T10 incomplete injury and has Brown-Séquard syndrome which means that he has more movement in one side below the level of injury than the other, and more sensation on one side against the other. Whilst at Stoke Mandeville Dean was encouraged to exercise as much as possible and he explains why this was so important to him, “Sport and exercise was essential but it was difficult because it was Covid times. There were a lot of restrictions still in place but I couldn’t keep still, and was one of the ones roaming around the hospital, and keeping on the move which was good for me physically and mentally.”

After leaving the unit in April 2022 Dean has been supported by local physio teams and has completed a number of courses with the Hobbs Rehabilitation unit. When they told him they were bringing a team to the WheelPower Inter Spinal Unit Games Dean was keen straight away and was looking forward to attending.

“Opportunities like this week have been brilliant. They give you an opportunity to learn new sports and new ways of doing sports which has been really interesting. I tried wheelchair rugby for the first time which was good fun, field athletics was interesting, archery, shooting have been good too and there’s just a real good variety of things to try.”

Dean hand cycling

As well as the many physical benefits of playing sport, there are also lots of well being benefits also. Dean continues, “When I’m playing sport I feel great. Its good exercise but also is good to let off steam as well. Playing with people who are in a similar situation to you, means you can have small chats and conversations with them that perhaps my other friends and family members wouldn’t understand. It’s definitely been a really good feel good factor for me.”

Following on from a successful week at the Inter Spinal Unit Games Dean is excited to continue his sporting journey.

“I’m looking into wheelchair basketball and rowing. I’m hoping to do a rowing course to introduce myself to the sport and try to compete at a decent standard. I have spoken to GB Paralympic Rower Ben Pritchard who has really motivated me to get into rowing. He’s been a real inspiration and is a really nice guy.”

Indoor rowing at Inter Spinal Unit Games

“I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to experience this year’s Inter Spinal Unit Games and I’d highly recommend it. It has been an incredible experience, and even more incredible to meet and also catch up with some truly amazing people. Thank you for having me WheelPower.”

Thank you Dean for sharing your story with WheelPower. We look forward to hearing what you do next and wish you every success in whichever sports you chose to pursue.

UPDATE: Following a successful application to the Wheelwrights Fund we are delighted to support Dean’s rowing dream by helping him to purchase a Concept2 Rowing Machine to help Dean to build his strength and fitness from his home.