I think it is fair to say that if it wasn’t for Poppa Guttmann I wouldn’t be enjoying the quality of life I do today. His vision of rehabilitation, and especially the use of sport and creative activities, completely changed the long term outcome for spinal injured patients. And as someone who has benefitted from the facilities and protocols at the National Spinal Injury Centre at Stoke Mandeville that he put in place all those years ago, I was delighted to be asked to support the ‘wee ride’ from Moscow to Moscow.
After road racing at all levels for 14 years, from clubman to world championship Formula 1, I found myself at Stoke Mandeville after breaking my back in a crash at the Ulster Grand Prix in 1995. The emphasis at the unit is all about what you can do, and not what you can’t do, with fitness and creative activities playing a major role in getting patients active and back in control of their lives. So much so, that despite being in a wheelchair I have been skiing, kart racing and quad riding in recent years – and I now have three small children who certainly keep me active !
One of Poppa Guttmann’s initiatives was the development of competitive disabled sport, and with the Paralympics ‘coming home’ in 2012, this is a perfect time to honour his legacy. So please do your best to find a few pounds and support Jim and his colleagues on their wee ride.