Mohammed Belal (Mo) is 47 and from Birmingham. A surgeon by trade Mo was always a very active person, a keen cyclist and family man to his wife and 3 children. Back in 2021 Mo and his friend were cycling along a woodland road at Meriden, in the West Midlands and a dead tree fell on him from height. He continues, “I remember seeing the tree fall and thinking this was going to hurt. It was crazy and I after trying to get up I realised I was paralysed. At this time the weirdest thing happened, I visualised myself in a wheelchair and knew it was going to be a long journey ahead.”
“I was going pretty fast, about 40km/h along a public highway and we were taking it in turns to lead. It wasn’t windy but the forest wasn’t very well maintained. Reflecting on the accident, the way I see it is if it hadn’t hit me it could have hit my friend. My friend was okay thankfully and looking back maybe me and the tree were meant to meet.”
Mo was injured at T4 and has an incomplete spinal cord injury. He continued his rehabilitation journey at Stanmore Spinal Injuries Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where he was supported by staff and the physios. As an active person before his injury he appreciated the importance of fitness on his rehab journey. “You have to get yourself in the best physical shape and sport for me is crucially important. When you are at the unit you have to accept what has happened but equally understand that there’s always hope that things will get better. I’ve been very grateful to have had no negativity and it’s been a positive journey so far. I was lucky enough to go Stanmore and I have to say they were excellent during my time there 18 months ago.”
As part of Mo’s rehab journey, he was given the opportunity to attend the Inter Spinal Unit Games and joined a team from Stanmore at Stoke Mandeville Stadium for a week of sport and activity in September 2022.
I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been an eye opener to the things you can do. It’s been good to try out lots of things I wouldn’t normally try, like the wheelchair rugby, weightlifting, wheelchair tennis and handcycling, and my competitive juices came out which was quite nice. I loved the basketball but I really liked the physicality of the rugby and will look into a local club when I get home."
“I also enjoyed the weightlifting and building your upper body strength for things like transfers is so important. To get words of encouragement from my peers and a Team England powerlifter (Liam McGarry) when I was lifting was really nice and when I get home I’m going to try and push harder and get stronger.”
Mohammed enjoyed his time with WheelPower at Stoke Mandeville Stadium as it has given him the knowledge and confidence to continue his rehab journey through sport and exercise. He continues, “I would definitely recommend the Games as it demonstrates that life’s not over and there’s so much out there. Life changes and not necessarily for the worst but for the better, and by trying things you realise what you enjoy. I never thought I’d like wheelchair rugby but after playing it I really enjoyed the team camaraderie.”
As Mo continues to push forward he is excited by what the future holds and returning to work as a surgeon to continue his 25 year long career. He continues, “I worked in neuro-urology reconstruction at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham so my specialism involved anything that affects the spine, brain affects the bladder. I’m hoping to get back to surgery next month and am trying to get in the best physical shape so that I can use an electric standing wheelchair. I think I’ll still be able to do 60/70% of the surgeries but not the longer ones.”
After my accident I received letters from the patients I treated and it made me realise that it will definitely make me a better doctor now I have the understanding from the other side. I’m looking forward to going back as I miss my colleagues and patients, and appreciate that I’m in such a privileged position to give my service back to others.”
Thank you Mohammed for sharing your story with WheelPower and we wish you all the very best for the future, both in your medical career but also in wheelchair sports.