A man suffered a horror motorbike crash that left him with a broken neck and spinal injuries so severe that he couldn’t talk – and had to communicate through blinking
Andrew Sutcliffe, from Southport, was put him in a coma for three months and then left in a wheelchair after the chilling accident. Even after the 48-year-old was able to leave hospital he couldn’t return to his old job or home due to the severe spinal injury.
Just as Andrew was regaining his independence, an ingrown hair caused an infection which needed surgery. This forced him to take six months bed rest and set back his rehabilitation massively.
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Speaking to the ECHO, Andrew said: “The accident made me realise how quickly my life could’ve gone. I ended up in a wheelchair for a long time and the brain injury meant I couldn’t talk, I had to blink in response to yes and no questions to communicate.
“But I obviously had someone looking after me, saying it wasn’t my time yet. I understand why some people give up after an experience like that but I was just more encouraged than ever.
“It inspired me to make the most of what I’ve got rather than just sitting back. Life goes on.”
Andrew was fortunate enough to have the support of his wife, Grace, who helped him get back on his feet and encouraged him to apply to university. He studied full-time during the coronavirus pandemic and graduated with a degree in health and social wellbeing at Edge Hill University.
Now he is aiming to work in the care sector, drawing on his lived experienced to support others with spinal injuries.
He said: “I couldn’t believe how some people had spoken to me when I was recovering and in a wheelchair, even some carers. People would talk to my mum instead of me, or they would talk to me like a child, treating me like I didn‘t understand anything.
“I’ve got lived experience so I can really help other people coming to terms with spinal injury and disabilities; I really understand what they’re going through and can offer real emotional support. Often when you go to day care centres or support sessions there’ll be someone sat by themselves and you can see they don’t know what to do, you can see they’re really struggling. I know how that feels, it’s horrible.
“I want my experience to be encouraging to others so I’ll just go over. Because no-one should ever feel that way.”
Andrew thanked staff and fellow students at Edge Hill University for supporting him throughout his degree, particularly his personal tutor and programme leader Alison Holbourn.
He added: “They couldn’t do enough for me – from organising my classes so they were on the ground floor whenever possible to regularly checking in to see how I was doing – I always knew there was support there if I needed it.”
You can find out more about studying health and social wellbeing at Edge Hill here.
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