A Northern Irish man who was left paralysed after undergoing an operation on his back has called for more support for people with spinal injuries.
Willie Reid, who lives in Newtowabbey, a self-confessed “fitness fanatic” before his operation, is now reliant on a wheelchair to get around.
The 43-year-old former door fitter went into hospital in December 2014 for an operation on one of the discs in his back. However, following complications he had to undergo another two spinal surgeries over the next couple of days, leaving him with extensive nerve damage and paralysed from the waist down.
Willie’s spinal injury has had a life-changing impact, not only on him, but also on his wife and children. He is confined to living in the downstairs of his home and is unable to afford a much-needed extension.
While full of praise for the staff at Musgrave Park Hospital where he undergoes physiotherapy treatment, he believes the health service in general should do more to support people with spinal injuries.
He has had help from charitable organisations based in England, but says there is little or no help here for people outside of hospital.
“I just want to let people know what we go through every day, how hard it is, and there’s not much help for us either,” he told the Times.
“They send you home from hospital and basically let you fend for yourself. It’s not fair, there should be something more done about it. There should be a fund to help people set themselves up after this happens.
“There should be more support. There is nothing, and there’s no one you can turn to for support. In England they have Back Up and Aspire and all these other organisations, but over here there’s just nothing.”
Working hard to make life better for himself, the father-of-two recently represented Musgrave at the WheelPower Inter Spinal Unit Games in Stoke Mandeville.
Taking on spinal injuries patients from all over the UK, Willie struck gold in the archery, scoring an impressive 113 out of 120, and also made the semi-final of the pool competition. He also played a key role in helping the four-man Belfast team pick up the Best Team Spirit award.
Keen to help others with spinal injuries, Willie is planning to hold a fundraising night in the coming months to raise money for sporting equipment for the physio unit at Musgrave.
As well as raising money for a good cause, he also hopes to raise awareness about spinal injuries and the lack of support currently available for people in his situation.
For information about spinal injuries log on to www.spinal.co.uk