A Shropshire man who suffered substantial injuries in a rock climbing accident, less than two years ago, will be a guest speaker at a spinal injury conference in the county in March.
Darren Edwards, 27, who lives in Shrewsbury, broke his back in the accident in August 2016, leaving him instantly paralysed from the chest down and changing his life forever.
Now, the long process on his road to rehabilitation, which has ultimately seen him become a member of the GB kayaking team, is proving an inspiration for others in a similar situation.
His story, which he was encouraged to start writing during his five-month stay at the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI) in Oswestry, is a moving and honest account of the day-to-day challenge of trying to come to terms with his injury.
Darren’s story, Strength Through Adversity, has also become a charity which looks to improve the opportunities for people to take part in sport in Shropshire.
He is keen to raise awareness of spinal injuries and is speaking at the Surviving Spinal Injury – The Journey event, being held at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry on March 15.
“I was rock climbing in North Wales with a friend when I was involved in a serious fall and broke my back in the process of landing precariously on a cliff edge,” he said.
“Flying by coastguard helicopter to the nearest trauma unit that day, I knew that I had to be prepared for an uphill battle to recover and to rehabilitate from a life-changing injury.
“I am determined to raise awareness about spinal injuries, my charity and how it is helping people in Shropshire.
“So when Lanyon Bowdler solicitors, who are organising the conference, got in touch and asked if I would be willing to attend the event as one of the speakers I was pleased to accept.
“It gives me the opportunity to return to the hospital in Oswestry where I spent so much time during my recovery.
“It is also important to emphasise how vital it is to stay positive. When I was in hospital there were people who had suffered more severe injuries than myself, and it made me appreciate how fortunate I had been. You have to keep cracking on and embrace the future as a new opportunity.”
The conference will bring leading experts in the field of spinal injuries together to discuss the path from injury through to diagnosis and rehabilitation.
The list of speakers at the event includes Professor El-Masri, a pioneer behind the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries at the hospital and senior consultants Mr Kumar, Mr Osman and Mr Chowdhury.
Mr Joy Chowdhury, Clinical Lead for the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI), said: “With us being one of the leading specialist centres in the country, I’m delighted that the conference will be taking place here at RJAH.
“Mr Kumar, Mr Osman and I will be speaking on various aspects of management of spinal cord injury and how we continue to be at the cutting edge of treatment and rehabilitation for patients with spinal cord injuries.
“It is also great that Prof El Masri is speaking at the event. He has a huge wealth of knowledge and skills to share in the world of spinal cord injury.”
Sophie Davies, of Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, added: “Tickets for the event are selling really well but there are some still available. It promises to be interesting and informative with some amazing inspirational stories being told.
“Former patients like Darren will also speak at the event – their stories are truly inspirational, showing great resolve, determination and courage in the face of terrible adversity.”
Tickets for the event can be reserved by visiting http://bit.ly/lbsurvivingspinalinjury