Jan is 61 and from Winchester, Hampshire where she lives with her wife and dog (who she has trained as an assistance dog to help with daily tasks!) She has been regularly attending the WheelPower Online Classes for over a year and now includes Nina’s Yoga class as part of her weekly exercise routine.

Jan on her exercise mat

This is Jan’s Story …

Jan has been a full-time wheelchair user for 12 years following a car crash in 2010 which left her with a spinal cord injury. Jan explains further, “We were involved in a car crash when driving home from a funeral in Cornwall. It was a beautiful day but as I came around a corner there was a car coming towards us on our side of the road. I swerved to avoid him on a single carriageway and clipped another car on the passenger side and spun/rolled the car.”

Both Jan and her wife sustained multiple injuries as a result of the crash and for Jan the severity of her injuries meant she spent the next 7 months in hospital. “My neck was fixed with plates and I was in intensive care for 10 days in Exeter before they transferred me on the ventilator back to Winchester for another 3 weeks, before moving to Salisbury where I spent the next 7 months.”

“My level of injury is C5/6 complete motor and slightly incomplete sensory, in as much as I can feel firm pressure in some parts of my body. I have limited movement in my arms which I’m working on by going to the gym and doing the online classes. I have no movement in my hands and not much going on in my core. Looking back on it all is just surreal more than anything, you leave your house for a long weekend and you don’t go back home for months.”

Supported by physios and doctors from The Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury she gradually started to build her strength and it was here that Jan began using a wheelchair. “Using a wheelchair for the first time was fun, not!  I remember entering the unit wheeled in and lying on a stretcher whilst on a ventilator seeing the row of wheelchairs, and I was thinking that’s what life is going to be about.”

“I would go to wheelchair skills classes but I just didn’t have the strength to move a manual chair. My OT tried to persuade me to go straight into a powerchair but I was trying to be positive and wasn’t having any of it. I didn’t want to let it get the better of me but I realised towards the end of my time there that a powerchair was the way forward. I do now have a manual wheelchair with e-motion wheels to give me a bit of a motorised boost around the house, and when I go out I use the powerchair.”

Before the accident Jan led a very active life. She was a regular user of the gym and went on holidays that involved activity, such as walking the Inca Trail in Peru. So during her time at the Spinal Unit she understood the benefits exercise and the importance of working hard. She enjoyed the hydrotherapy and remembers a time when she tried wheelchair tennis for the first time.

Jan exercising in the gym and outside on the track

After leaving the Spinal Unit Jan continued to discover new opportunities near her home. She attended hydrotherapy and physio sessions weekly and before the pandemic was hand cycling at her local track, and then Covid-19 arrived which unfortunately stopped most of these activities. Jan was now looking for different ways to exercise. She had wrist weights and therabands at home but it wasn’t until February 2021 that she first discovered WheelPower’s Online Classes, and she’s not looked back since.

“I think I found out about the classes after reading about them in the SIA forward magazine and I thought, oh that sounds good. I had tried some of the recorded classes and I’ve dabbled in the other classes but I soon found that it was the Yoga exercises that suited me more. I like the pace and the way Nina runs the class, the group, and the familiar faces. She changes it every week, sometimes we use props and I would probably call it Yoga Plus! I generally have to adapt some of the movement in the class as I can’t reach up, or do both arms, so I wear a belt so I don’t fall out of my chair.”

“These classes are now irreplaceable for me and form an important part of my weekly structure, and I think I would find it difficult to find a local class that would be able to cater for people like me. The classes are helping me get stronger which is a long process when you have a spinal injury. My muscles can sometimes feel a bit tender but after over a year of coming I can really see the physical benefits.”

Jan doing her wheelchair exercises

Having structure and exercising regularly can bring lots of benefits both physically and socially and the WheelPower classes are ideal for people of all levels of ability to add to their diaries. Jan continues, “Whilst I’m exercising I feel energised and feel pleased with myself after I’ve done it. When things take longer and are harder it feels like even more of an achievement at the end of it.”

“I would like to say a big thank you to Nina and WheelPower. The sessions have really become part of the core structure of my week and I would miss them dreadfully if they stopped. It’s been so valuable and so enjoyable, and it always feels nice to belong to this special group.”

Thank you Jan for sharing your story with us. We are delighted that you discovered the WheelPower resources and that they have helped you to stay active during these very challenging times.

Check out Jan’s Women with Wheels blog for tips and hints for disabled people with a Spinal Cord Injury:

Women With Wheels (Jan’s Blog)