Volunteering With Back Up

Judith McDonald works in the marketing department at CliniMed. She takes care of the marketing for our continence products and was recently invited to volunteer with Back Up. Back Up exists to transform the lives of everyone affected by spinal cord injury. They deliver a range of services to build confidence and independence back into people’s lives, offering a supportive network when it’s needed most.

Judith has taken time to share her Back Up experience below…

This was my first-time volunteering as a ‘buddy’ with Back-Up. I joined them on a Next Steps residential course in Manchester, which is specifically designed for people with a spinal injury who can walk. The aim of the course is to build up people’s confidence in getting out and about, and with social situations.

My role was to provide a listening ear and practical support as required.

We stayed at a small hotel in the centre of Manchester. There were 13 of us in total, two course leaders and four ‘buddies’ including me. Nine people had a spinal injury including one of the course leaders, and one who worked for Back Up as a mentor. Some had lived with a spinal injury for a number of years but most of the participants had received their injury in the last year or so.

What everyone had in common though, was that they could all walk - mostly aided, although some more easily than others depending on their level of injury and how recently it was sustained.

The group met informally on the Friday afternoon and then walked to a nearby restaurant for an evening meal.

On Saturday we came together for a more formal chat before heading off on foot into Manchester town centre to visit the People’s Museum. Sunday was a Manchester ‘scavenger hunt’ which involved finding sites of interest and taking photos of such, again mostly on foot. Whether by wheelchair or on foot the participants were working out ways to manage kerbs, steps, getting in and out of public transport, and uneven pavements and streets.

Taxis were on standby throughout the weekend for those who needed a rest. For many of the participants this was the most walking they had done since their spinal injury.

Monday was set aside for discussion. To begin with, everyone talked about how they had coped over the last two days. We then moved on to talk about the issues related to living with a spinal injury, both practical and emotional.

Access to financial aid and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was a big topic. Other discussions were pain, fatigue, depression and guilt.

Everyone shared their different experiences and coping mechanisms. Bladder and bowel management was discussed too, including the use of intermittent catheters for self-catheterisation. This gave me the opportunity to provide everyone with a brief overview of the Curan catheter range, other CliniMed continence products and our delivery service, SecuriCare, along with Pharmacare, SecuriCare’s medicine’s delivery service.   

Monday was rounded off with a curry and pub quiz, which was great fun.

We then met for breakfast on Tuesday morning and said our goodbyes. I was sad to leave as I had met a great bunch of people. I learned about their lives, their differing injuries, and how important it was for them to have practical and emotional support. I saw how this course raised confidence levels whilst providing the additional benefit for participants of being able to share their experiences with each other. Back Up certainly provides plenty of support not only with this Next Steps course but also with its other services too. You can find out more about Back Up at www.backuptrust.org.uk.

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