Inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport

KEVIN HARTLE

My name is Kevin Hartle, I am 35 years old and live in Essex. I've recently completed a Masters degree in psychology, and was recently offered a place at Birkbeck, University of London to study for a PhD in psychology. For my M.Sc thesis, I researched the psychological impact of spinal cord injury (SCI) on rugby players. I was interested to see how the injured participants cope with the life changing impact of SCI, from their perspective. Although participants had and continue to face many challenges, with hard work, strong support and focused goals they managed to find meaning and pleasure from life. For my Ph.D I will continue with this research in greater depth thanks to the generous funding I received from The Matt Hampson Foundation to support me through the duration of the course .

My story will be familiar to many people reading this. About 10 years, at the age of 23 I suffered a SCI playing rugby. I sustained a C4 fracture, and instantly, my life changed forever. The injury was severe, and I spent many weeks on a life-support machine paralysed from the neck down. As time went by, I regained movement, and was strong enough to breathe on my own, and was transferred to a spinal unit. After 6 or 7 months, I returned home to live with my parents, and a life that no longer seemed familiar to me. It took time for me to adjust and adapt to my SCI, and I was fortunate to have the support, environment and patience of loved ones to do so.

Since my accident I have managed to accomplish many positive things. I now live independently in a house I bought and renovated. I went skiing in Sweden with a charity called Backup, I returned to university and completed an MSc in psychology. Also with Backup, I trained as a mentor, giving me the chance to use my experiences to provide support to individuals with SCI. This is something I find very rewarding. New and exciting experiences are constantly appearing for me, for example, recently, I gave a presentation about mentoring and the work that Backup do, to a packed room, at City Hall in London. With determination and support I've rediscovered my place in the world, and look forward to many future opportunities.

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