A special Paralympic games for spinal injury patients opens at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injury Unit at the Southern General Hospital today.
The unique event coincides with the last week of the Beijing Paralympics and features a wheelchair slalom, athletics, sailing, archery, basketball and fencing amongst the list of sports challenges.
The event is the brainchild of the therapy team at the Unit, which treats patients from all over Scotland.
Some of the sports are taking place on the grounds and within the hospital itself…but the clinical teams pushed the boat out when it came to the sailing events and brought Lochwinnoch’s superb Castle Semple water sports facilities into service.
The Spinal Unit organisers are determined to prove to spinal patients that life is worth living and that sporting challenges can be mastered successfully.
"This is a great example of NHS staff going the extra mile with patients …and patients going the extra mile too!" said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Chairman Andrew Robertson. He added: "Sport is such a key component of so many young people’s lives and after a spinal injury it is important to know that sporting involvement is still possible at the highest level."
Team GB in Beijing heard about the unique hospital event and sent over their encouragement to the spinal injury patients taking part.
Scots athlete Kevin Simpson, 31, from Linlithgow, is in the Paralympics GB Wheelchair Tennis Team and is also a former patient of the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Southern. He called to say: "Life has a way of throwing us surprises. No matter how tragic, devastating, unexpected or unwanted, with a little bit of determination, self-belief and a will to succeed, then we can move on to a positive new chapter in our own book of life.
"Life for me did not end on April 8, 2001 after breaking my back and legs.
"At first I found it hard to accept and come to terms with, but then my drive and determination made me focus on giving rehabilitation everything I had.
"What helped me along through all this wasn’t just family and friends, but a sport I had never played before, and one that I certainly didn¹t know I could play in a wheelchair.
"Since that time I have never looked back. I play on average 15 tournaments a year, train five days a week and it has allowed me to see places and meet great new people and friends that I would never have done before my accident. I have played in Europe, Canada, USA, South Africa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and, the biggest highlight of my life, the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
"I thought I could only dream about becoming a Paralympian but with sheer hard work and determination it has become a reality.
"I have a life that I love and am happy with. I also enjoy skiing, sailing, water skiing and hand-biking. The opportunities available to us all are there, whether for a career or just a hobby, so give things a try. You might never know unless you do!"
Andy MacLeod, from Spinal Injuries Scotland, also expressed his support: "This hospital based Paralympic Games will allow people who are newly-injured to try out a variety of sports under expert tuition.
"The staff at the Southern General deserve great credit for putting together such a comprehensive programme and, who knows, they might even discover a future Paralympic champion!"
Margaret McKillop Clinical Services Manager at the Southern’s Spinal Injuries Unit, explained: "A spinal injury, whether caused by a tragic accident or from other factors, is one of the most fundamentally life changing experiences there is. The impact is not just on ones ability to cope physically but is often the devastating impact of self confidence.
"It is very common for people, in the very early stages, who have gone from being perfectly able bodied to being paralysed to feel that their life is simply over.
"But sport and the sheer variety of different sporting pursuits available to people with a spinal injury can quite simply be a lifesaver. Understanding that they can still compete in team or individual sports and enjoy a physical hobby can have a profound impact on the wellbeing, particularly emotionally, of spinal injury patients.
"And nowhere can the incredible sporting achievements which can be achieved by spinal injury patients be seen more clearly is in the competitors taking part in the Beijing Paralympics."
To demonstrate the range of activities that patients can get involved in, the Southern General team have put together a week-long programme of different sports that patients can try out. The aim being for patients to find one they like and take it up. The week-long event will be close with a final Championship Dinner in the hospital.
Many in patients have already signed up to take part with some former patients planning to attend too.
The Spinal Injuries Unit treats patients from across the whole of Scotland. Patients range from children as young a 12 years right through to 65 and beyond.
The sporting events will take place in a variety of venues including the Southern General, Scotstoun Leisure Centre, Crown Point Track and Castle Semple.
For further information please contact the press office on 0141 201 4429.