A 24-year-old Middlesbrough man left paralysed after a diving accident in Tenerife has made a five hundred mile round trip to compete in the Inter Spinal Unit Games.
Mark Bonnar was part of the team from the North of England Spinal Cord Injury Centre at James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough, who travelled to Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.
He joined other patients from around the country and the Republic of Ireland, to take part in the 27th Inter Spinal Unit Games organised by WheelPower – the national charity for wheelchair sports.
The participants received coaching and demonstrations from leading wheelchair sports athletes and experienced coaches.
Mark tried various sports such as archery, shooting and the tough wheelchair rugby and said it was fun and tiring but “not his cup of tea”. He had more success in the table tennis, which he has been able to play since his accident, where he reached the semi -finals.
He said he enjoyed the Games: “It’s good to be around people in the same situation as yourself, I spent a whole year in a side room in hospital after the accident and hadn’t been able to speak to other people in the same situation.”
The Middlesbrough team leader Clair Williams said: “This is Mark’s first experience away from home since the injury and he’s shown exceptional enthusiasm in the sports he could manage.”
Another patient from the North of England Spinal Cord Injury Centre showed that age was no barrier as 68-year-old former marathon runner Denis Fairbridge from Middlesbrough took on younger counterparts at the Games.
Sport has played a part in his rehabilitation after his accident, but Denis said he was impressed with the facilities at Stoke Mandeville and said he hoped they could have more in the north east of England.
WheelPower’s Sport Development Officer, Stewart Jeeves, who organised the event said: “Throughout the week all participants have fully embraced their opportunity to have a go at sport.
“The patients with spinal cord injuries have discovered first-hand what they can achieve in terms of participating in sport and living an independent lifestyle. Many will return home full of confidence and desire to continue playing the sport they love in their local area.”
For more information about WheelPower visit www.wheelpower.org.uk