Iffat is 66 and has spent most of her life living and working in Glasgow. She has always been passionate about the outdoors, loved hiking, camping and felt incredibly lucky to live so close to some of the most beautiful parts of the UK. But in December 2022 after a bouldering accident at an indoor climbing centre Iffat’s life changed. Since sustaining a spinal cord injury Iffat has sought new opportunities to be active, play sport and return to the outdoors which she loves so much. WheelPower and the Wheewrights Fund were therefore delighted to award her with £1800 to help her to purchase a new wheel attachment for her wheelchair to make the return to countryside pursuits possible.

This is Iffat’s story: 

“I have worked in the medical devices industry for most of my working life and live in a suburb of Glasgow so I don’t have far to travel to get into the countryside. I used to be a very outdoorsy person and really passionate about walking in the hills and mountains of Scotland. I love the fresh air, the green space, and there’s something about the beauty of the mountains that arouses this huge passion in me. I find it overwhelmingly nice and uplifting. It makes you feel special being amongst the ruggedness of nature.”

Just after Christmas of 2022 Iffat decided to join some of her family members at the local indoor climbing centre. Although she had done some scrambling before this was the first time bouldering and something she had always been interested in and looking forward to trying. She continues, “The kind of person I am is that I keep aiming for more, I am ambitious and I aim for the highest and the best. I probably should have taken it easy but I went for the final hold. My brain was telling me no you should stop and be happy with where you are, but my other side said you could get there. I reached out and I slipped and fell over 10ft straight on my back. To be honest I haven’t revisited this day in detail as it brings back that horrible moment.”

After the accident Iffat spent the following 6 months in hospital, where she had surgeries and ongoing physio to support her rehabilitation. Reflecting on those first few weeks she said, “My first experience was fear, in fact I was terrified. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I’d never been in hospital with an injury before, and always disliked hospitals. When I came to a few days later and looked around, and thought where am I, why am I here and what’s next? Listening to the other patients’ stories, I realised some were in a much worse state than me. But as time moved on I thought this was a new life and I need to make the most of it! I was starting to feel more at ease and confident that I was going to get through this and because I’d kept myself fit my arms were stronger and I think my recovery was better as a result.”

After moving to the Queen Elizabeth Spinal Unit in Glasgow Iffat was introduced to the many benefits of movement, activity and sport by WheelPower Physical Activity Advisor Angie Malone. Angie a GB Paralympic Wheelchair Curler and former patient in the unit herself was on hand to support Iffat to engage in sport, but also provide meaningful advice from her own lived experience of having a spinal cord injury.

“Life seemed like it had come to an end but meeting people like Angie was instrumental in giving me a positive outlook on life after a SCI. Seeing her with a disability, and doing what she was doing so well, gave me a lot of inspiration and positivity and it made me think that life hadn’t come to an end after all and there was still lots of possibilities.”

As part of the programme Angie would also lead exercise sessions and invite local clubs and coaches in to the unit to help the patients improve their fitness and discover new opportunities. Iffat continues, “I always looked forward to Friday afternoons with Angie and sport and activity was the best thing that happened to me since my injury. To realise that there were things I could do and that I could still be active was so important as I’ve been into fitness as long as I can remember. Angie brought in a local curling coach, which I enjoyed. She brought in boccia which was new to me and Table Tennis, Badminton too but I’m not very good at racket sports.”

After leaving the unit it wasn’t much longer until another opportunity came around and Iffat was invited to join the Glasgow Spinal Unit at the WheelPower Inter Spinal Unit Games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in September 2023. She continues, “My physio at the unit recommended the Games to me and put my name forward because of my interest in the sport. I was the one who was at the Friday sessions every week without fail, and always did my best at everything I tried. I was honoured to be part of the team and excited to take part.”

“I hadn’t flown or travelled since my injury so I saw also that as a great learning experience too. It was such a huge opportunity and thankfully it was much easier than I thought it would be.”

Over the course of a week Iffat was able to try 20 different sports and alongside her teammates competed across a number of events. Iffat excelled at archery and came close to winning the gold medal at the event. “I really enjoyed the handcycling, and the archery where I got to the final but lost out by a few points. I was very miffed about that because I wanted the medal! Aside from the sport it was really good interacting with other people who were going through similar experiences and making friends.”

Since attending the Games Iffat has found a local archery club and is excited to try handcycling in her local park now the weather has improved. She is keen to stay active and to return to the landscapes she loves so much with her family and friends. Since leaving hospital Iffat enjoyed going for a push in her local park but was finding the places she could go and the length of time she could push for really depended on the terrain and how much energy she had on a particular day. With this in mind she was encouraged to apply for a grant from the Wheelwrights Fund for an electric front wheel attachment that would give her to go further and reach these places once again.

“Since I bought my wheel it’s been a game changer and its allowed me to go to places which I thought I’d never be able to go to. It has allowed me to reconnect with my passion of going out into the countryside and I can now go much further. I can see and smell the countryside and reconnect with friends and family to who are willing to take me to places like the Trossachs and Loch Lomond. I can now reconnect with my grandchildren too. A gentle walk in the park is boring to them but now with my wheel they can accompany me with their scooters and bikes and even race me!”

It is great to hear how much of difference the attachment is already making to Iffat and hear how she is now able to return to some of her favourite places for the first time since her accident. We wish her the very best for her continued exploring and adventures going forward!

“It’s made a huge difference to my life and I can’t thank WheelPower and the Wheelwrights enough for the generosity they have offered me. It’s overwhelming, and I will always remember the support of your charity, not only in funding my wheel, but organising the sporting events, online classes and the sessions with Angie in the unit. I just think everyone who has experienced the generosity must be as indebted, and full of gratitude"