Interview with Matt “Hambo” Hampson | Parallel London 2017

Here is my latest interview for Disability Horizons


With less than a month to go before the return of Parallel London (an all inclusive fun run and festival), I spoke to ambassador Matt Hampson about his involvement, and why the event is so important to him.

Matt “Hambo” Hampson is a former England Rugby Union prop who, at the age of 20, was paralysed in a near-fatal routine scrum session. Despite having severed his spinal cord in the accident (which took place twelve years ago in Northampton) Matt is now busier than ever and living life to the full as a C4/5 tetraplegic.

In 2011, Matt decided to establish a charitable foundation in his name, to inspire and support others who have suffered similar catastrophic sports injuries.

A mentor, fund-raiser, columnist, award-winning author, rugby coach, patron and ambassador; Matt truly epitomises the foundation’s ethos – ‘Get Busy Living’.

Hi Matt, would you please tell Disability Horizons readers a little about your sporting background and your subsequent disability?
I had my accident back in 2005 playing for the England Under 21s. I suffered a dislocated neck in a scrummaging accident, and had to be resuscitated on the pitch by the referee (and former paramedic) that day Tony Spreadbury.

My life obviously changed forever. One minute I was a young, fit sportsman and the next I was paralysed from the neck down. It was pretty tough to deal with. But it’s made me the person I am today and I think it happened for a reason. And that was to set up the Matt Hampson Foundation, which aims to inspire and support young people seriously injured through sport.

How did you adapt to no longer being able to participate in sport as you had previously?
It was quite difficult but I think I tried to channel my energy into something productive, which was to try and focus on something that I could do rather than what I can’t. So now I do my motivational speeches, I see beneficiaries and I try to use my profile to influence and help other people in similar situations to the one I found myself in twelve years ago.

Can you tell us about the Matt Hampson Foundation – how and why did you set it up?
I set the foundation up because when I was in hospital I felt there wasn’t enough support out there for people in the same situation as myself. I felt quite isolated. I think the Matt Hampson Foundation aims to get individuals and families together and show them that there is life after serious injury through sport. It also tries to motivate them to ultimately ‘get busy living’ (an ethos inspired by Matt’s favourite film, The Shawshank Redemption).

‘Get busy living’ is the ethos of the Matt Hampson Foundation, which aims to inspire and support young people seriously injured through sport. How do you achieve this?
We try to show people there is a life beyond their injury and that you can live a great and fulfilled life even with a catastrophic injury. Everyone has X amount of time on this planet, so why not enjoy it.

So yeah, we try and use ‘Get busy living’ as the sort of ethos around the foundation.

What are your thoughts on involving disabled people in sport?
I think after the Paralympics in 2012, it changed the world of disabled sport forever. I think people started looking at disabled sports people as proper sports men and women rather than feeling sorry for them, and almost letting them participate as a sort of afterthought and a token gesture. I think the Paralympics in London really showed that and put them on a level playing field with able-bodied athletes.

How and why did you become an ambassador for Parallel London?
It’s to put people on a level playing field, whatever their disability – whether you’re able-bodied, in a wheelchair, young or old – anyone can participate in Parallel London.

I think it’s so, so important to know that you can do things and be alongside disabled people, able-bodied people and all be on a level playing field.

What does Parallel London mean to you personally, and how does it promote disability and diversity within sport?
Parallel London to me means inclusivity. So basically, trying to get everybody involved whatever their background, ethnicity or disability – all can be involved with, and contribute to Parallel London. It just shows that everybody is equal, and for a day it makes people realise that.

You can find out more about Matt’s involvement with Parallel London and the Matt Hampson Foundation. ‘Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson’, by Paul Kimmage, is available to purchase online.

Many thanks to Matt Hampson

 

The kindness of strangers | Wheelchair Life ♿

I was out shopping yesterday in my trusty Quantum 600 powered wheelchair. While the many other shoppers bustled past without a second thought, one considerate old lady stopped and asked if I needed her help to reach anything.

As my fellow wheelchair users will know, shopping can be frustrating for various reasons. Not only are we grappling with the general public (the pushing, shoving and impatience), and trying to navigate narrow aisles without running over anyones toes; we are also bum height! 😣

Not only that – reaching anything both above or below torso level is a challenge, particularly with elbow contractures and poor grip (as in my case).

So, just those few kind words from one generous old lady truly made my day, yesterday. It really is the little things in life – the small gestures – that make a big difference. If only everyone was so thoughtful!

I am aware that some disabled individuals may take offence at such an offer, presumably seeing it as a sign of pity – the implication being we cannot cope by ourselves. However, I personally cannot construe it as anything other than sincere concern for a fellow human being. We all need help and support every once in a while, regardless of ability or circumstance. Even if you don’t require assistance from others, at least have the courtesy to decline their offer politely.


#respecttotheoldies ✌💗

#MuscularDystrophy

#WheelchairLife ♿


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Changing Places Awareness

Imagine being denied the basic human need to go to the loo; being unable to access a toilet whenever you need to. Imagine having to hold it in all day, every day. Having no choice but to strictly limit your fluid intake to the point where you cannot risk drinking from morning until evening.  

My experience

This was my life until 2011, when I underwent medically unnecessary surgery to insert a suprapubic catheter. Of course I didn’t want an operation or an indwelling catheter. By no means was this an easy fix, believe me! But I just couldn’t do it anymore; I was making myself ill and relied on assistance from others in order to carry out the seemingly simple task of toileting. No longer could I inflict undue stress on my body and mind.

So, I resigned myself to the only option available to me, that being the suprapubic catheter. I no longer depend on other people, nor do I have to struggle and suffer the indignity of using small and frankly ill-adapted disabled loos. But, 250,000 disabled people in the UK still do.

The truth about disabled toilets

Often there is not enough room to fit a wheelchair in disabled toilets, let alone space to transfer, adjust clothing and accommodate a carer too. Baby changing facilities get in the way, grab rails are too few and carelessly installed, the toilets themselves are too low, and hoists… what hoists?!

Changing Places

The 19th July 2017 marked the second Changing Places Awareness Day and eleven years since the campaign began. I’ll admit it’s only relatively recently, through social media groups, that I first heard of Changing Places toilets. Though there are now 1000 registered Changing Places toilets across the UK, I have yet to see one.

What is a Changing Places toilet?

Each registered Changes Places toilet includes:

  • a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench
  • a tracking hoist system, or mobile hoist where not possible
  • adequate space for the disabled person and up to two carers
  • a centrally placed toilet with room either side
  • a screen or curtain for privacy
  • wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench
  • a large waste bin for disposable pads
  • a non-slip floor

To support and raise awareness of the need for Changing Places toilets, Muscular Dystrophy UK established the #FitToBurst campaign (Keep up to date on Twitter!)

As a Trailblazer myself, I offered my thoughts in response to the question (posed on Facebook): What does it mean to you to have more Changing Places toilets?

 

Here is my full response:

To be honest I’ve never seen or used one. I don’t know if it’s because I live semi-rurally (are they located predominantly in cities/larger towns?)

If so, I think it’s important that there are Changing Places loos in smaller towns, villages and more rurally as there are people in need in these locations too.

The lack of such a facility locally makes me feel restricted, excluded from society and considered less important. I don’t know if I’m correct in assuming that Changing Places toilets are mostly in cities, but if so, it makes me wonder why. Is it a funding issue? Is it ignorance, i.e. the belief that disabled people don’t live rurally?

The majority of disabled toilets I have used throughout the years have been vastly inadequate, filthy, often neglected or used for storage!

As I say I’ve never seen or used a Changing Places loo – unfortunately. But I can think of so many people locally, young and old, who would greatly benefit from having access to one.


To read what other Trailblazers have to say click here.

Find out much more about Changing Places by visiting their website.