: News

Lack of wheelchair access on train causes needless embarrassing situation

Blog by Jonathan Fogerty, Trustee of SPIRIT:

I was very moved by this news feature. Is it not a shocking indictment of the UK in 2017?

I have been a wheelchair user for nearly 30 years and when I look back at the facilities that were available when I first became a wheelchair user, it is clear that we have much better accessible facilities and a better accessible social environment than we had in the late 1980s.

For example, I remember travelling by train from Manchester to London in the late 1980s and for the first time as a wheelchair user.

There was no wheelchair accessible space in the carriage. I had to be lifted on and off by a couple of the guards and I travelled in the guard’s van with the bags of post.

There is no doubt that facilities have improved but having said that, we still have a long way to go. Much of our transport infrastructure remains inaccessible to wheelchair users and there remains no effective body enforcing the Equality Act 2010. That is very disappointing. If somebody cannot use public transport because of a disability then what chance have they of returning to employment and contributing meaningfully to society. If they cannot access schools or colleges, how can they have an education and get qualifications in order to succeed in life. We need to decide as a society in the 21st century how we want to treat people with a disability.

I was interviewed by Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 this lunchtime about my experiences using an on-board train wheelchair accessible toilet following the story in the news about the Paralympian who was forced to wet herself as she could not gain access to the accessible toilet on board the train.

See this link to the BBC iPlayer and listen again to the programme.

The feature about accessible toilets on trains starts one hour into the programme and my interview starts at around one hour 20 minutes (or just after) into the programme… If you just want to listen to my bit!

Six day trek ‘Beyond The Grand Canyon’ fundraising for SPIRIT

In 2015, Pauline Mearns unfortunately broke her back.

Despite suffering an injury at T12 & L1, she went on to make a remarkable recovery after a long and intense period of rehabilitation.

Now, a year later and wanting to give something back to the spinal cord injury community, Pauline is embarking upon another remarkable challenge.

She is participating in a six-day trek to raise money for SPIRIT and, as trustees of the charity, we are delighted that she has chosen SPIRIT and to support the charity in this way.

All of us at SPIRIT send our very best wishes to Pauline and we wish well on her trek.  If you would like to sponsor Pauline and show your support of her and SPIRIT, please follow this link to Pauline’s just-giving page.

We well let you know how Pauline gets on when she has completed her trek!


Some sad news from the National Spinal Injuries Centre

It is with deep sadness that the trustees of SPIRIT learned of the death of Professor Paul Kennedy this week.

Paul was Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford and Trust Head of Clinical Psychology at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Paul was instrumental in developing clinical psychological support for those affected by spinal cord injury and he was passionate about involving clinical psychology within the rehabilitation process after injury.

He was also one of the founders of the MASCIP organisation that developed relationships between therapists and nursing teams at the spinal injury centres around the UK.

Paul will be sorely missed and the trustees of SPIRIT send their sincere condolences to Paul’s wife and family.

Prof Wagih-El-Masri, Chair of SPIRIT said:

“We are devastated to hear of Paul’s passing. He deserves a huge amount of praise for the development of clinical psychological treatment for those with spinal cord injury. The world of spinal cord injury care and support is much the poorer for his absence.”


Progress from spinal cord injury researchers with Walk Again Project

As a spinal cord injury charity, SPIRIT welcomes the progress made by the Walk Again Project in Brazil to generate function in paralysed muscles after spinal cord injury.

Scientists developed the Walk Again Project, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thinking that they could enable paraplegics to move about using the exoskeleton controlled by their thoughts.

But they were surprised to discover that during the training, the eight patients all started to regain the sense of touch and movement below the injury to their spine.

Read more about their discovery here.

SPIRIT is delighted to learn of the research that continues in this area in the hope that one day people who sustain paralysis through spinal cord injury will recover.

SPIRIT trustee, Jonathan Fogerty said on hearing the news:

“This is very positive news and I’m pleased to hear about it. However we have to be cautious. Despite the significant advances that have been made, we are not at the stage where we can call this is a ‘cure’ for spinal cord injury. Until a cure for spinal cord injury is found, it is important that all patients with a spinal cord injury in the UK are properly rehabilitated in a specialist spinal injury centre so that each can achieve their maximum potential post injury.”

It is also vital that the spinal cord injury charities in the UK, such as the Spinal Injuries Association, Aspire, Spinal Research and the Back Up Trust continue to provide their important support services.

If you would like to learn more about the work of SPIRIT, please look around our website or email us.


Walk Againn

SPIRIT Trustee and a supporter of our charity shortlisted for SIA Awards 2016

The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) is the leading support organisation for those affected by spinal cord injury in the UK.

The SIA was founded in 1974 and still provides services for the 35,000 people living with spinal cord injury.

The SIA holds an annual Rebuilding Lives Award Ceremony in Birmingham and 2016 sees two people connected to SPIRIT nominated and shortlisted for an award.

Heather Edwards has worked at the Oswestry Spinal Injury Centre for many years. She has been instrumental in supporting the work of the SPIRIT charity and the SPIRIT trustees were delighted to learn of her shortlisting for the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award at Oswestry SCIC.

Jonathan Fogerty is a trustee of SPIRIT and a former trustee of the SIA. He was chair of the SIA for three years between 2011 and 2014. Jonathan has been nominated and shortlisted in the ‘Inspirational Adult’ category at the awards.

The SPIRIT trustees would like to express their good luck wishes to Jonathan and Heather and we hope they enjoy themselves at the ceremony.

A write up on the evening’s events will be posted here shortly.

Read more about the SIA awards here and to donate to SPIRIT and continue the work we do as a charity follow this link.

Paralysed man takes first steps with help of bionic exoskeleton

A man who was left paralysed after a car accident has been able to walk for the first time in four years thanks to a bionic exoskeleton.

Abdul Aldhfeiry from Cardiff, broke his neck in the accident in Australia in 2012. Following a period of intensive rehabilitation and use of this remarkable piece of equipment, Abdul has been able to take his first steps since injuring his spinal cord.

It is very encouraging to read of the progress that has been made in rehabilitating individuals after spinal cord injury. There is now a wide range of equipment available to people with paralysis and it is important that all those who are going through the rehabilitation process after spinal cord injury have access to modern technology that increasingly plays a part.

The trustees of SPIRIT are interested in learning about new equipment that will improve the rehabilitation and long-term function of those affected by spinal cord injury.

Unfortunately, around 1000 people in the UK sustain spinal cord injury every year, the biggest cause of spinal-cord injury being trauma caused through falls.

SPIRIT is a charity that supports the learning about the treatment of spinal cord injury in countries all over the world.

SPIRIT provides grants for doctors and other healthcare professionals to travel to the UK and to learn about our spinal cord injury centre service and learn new skills.

To donate to SPIRIT and continue the work we do as a charity follow this link.

SPIRIT Trustee to take part in SCI Question Time discussion

To mark Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Day on Friday 20th May, Jonathan Fogerty, Trustee of SPIRIT is taking part in a Question Time style debate on spinal cord injury.

The debate will be looking at current issues facing people affected by SCI, the impact of SCI and how services for those with SCI across the UK are delivered.

The event is being hosted by KPMG at their offices at 15 Canada Square, London E14 5GL.

The event is taking place on Friday, 20th May from 9am until 11am.

For further information, to book a place at the event and to ask a question of the panel, please visit the website.


Date: 20th May 2016

Event: SCI Question Time May 2016

Time: 9am – 11am

Venue: KPMG, 15 Canada Square, London E14 5GL

Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day tomorrow

The trustees of SPIRIT would like to mark spinal cord injury awareness day on Friday 20th May.

In the UK, three people a day are left paralysed through spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury can happen in the simplest of circumstances and when one is least prepared. A long stay in hospital often follows and the impact of this on the injured person’s family and friends cannot be underestimated.

Fortunately, there are a number of organisations that provide practical support for people affected by spinal cord injury. These organisations provide a range of valuable services from the moment of injury and for the rest of a persons life.

The services are also provided to family and friends of the injured person.

SPIRIT supports the work done by all of these organisations and we would like to commend them for the work that they do. Further information, and news about spinal cord injury awareness day can be found by following this link.

SPIRIT is a charity that supports the learning about the treatment of spinal cord injury in countries all over the world.

SPIRIT provides grants for doctors and other healthcare professionals to travel to the UK and to learn about our spinal cord injury centre service and learn new skills.

Click here to donate to SPIRIT and continue the work we do as a charity.

Research into Spinal Cord Injury – can you help?

An interdisciplinary group of clinicians and scientists, led by Dr Pawel Tabakown, Consultant Neurosurgeon from the Wroclaw University Hospital (Poland), are looking for two individuals with a complete SCI following a stab injury to the spinal cord.

Candidates may be either male or female, preferably more than six months post-injury and between 16 and 65 years of age, in good health and willing to participate for three years in an intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation regime both pre and post-surgery.

Fortunately there are not many cases of such individuals in the UK, hence the importance to advertise widely. Recruitment of suitable candidates is not exclusive to the UK.

Surgery for such a procedure would be undertaken in Poland, in close cooperation with scientists from the UK led by Prof. Geoffrey Raisman. It is hoped that any pre and post-independent assessments could be undertaken closer to home.

It is hoped that further studies may help learn more about the regeneration about spinal cord tissue and function

Interested individuals can send their application directly through the recruitment website: walk-again-project.org with a brief description of the circumstances of the injury, treatment received, hospital or Spinal Injury Centre where treatment is provided and current ability to appreciate any feeling or initiate any voluntary movement below the level of injury.

Read more about the Walk Again Project


One year since the Nepal earthquakes where thousands died and hundreds were paralysed

Today is the first anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal where nearly 9,000 people died in the two earthquakes that struck the country.

The international media focus afterwards was on those people who died.

Unfortunately however over 22,000 were injured in the same disaster with over 400 people instantly paralysed through spinal cord injury (SCI).

No healthcare system in the world would be able to cater for the needs of so many SCI people instantly needing support; let alone one in a developing country.

Spinal cord injury not only causes paralysis of limbs but also affects the ability to control bladder and bowel function.

SPIRIT provides grants for doctors and other healthcare professionals to travel to the UK and to learn about our spinal cord injury centre service and learn new skills.

One year on from the earthquakes, SPIRIT remembers all those affected by spinal cord injury in Nepal and wishes them well.

For further information follow this link to the BBC News website.