Like many fit and healthy firefighters, James Thorpe never thought he would need help from The Fire Fighters Charity. Then, on the first day of his stag do in Magaluf, he ran into the sea, tripped and fell, and broke his neck, becoming paralysed from the chest down.
The Fire Fighters Charity got involved really quickly, he says. I spent three months in hospital, and visited Jubilee House a month after I got out. Everyone made me feel so welcome, and having the nursing staff was a great bonus, as well as having the psychological and physical support. I appreciated having people to talk to and work things through with.
As well as having to build up his physical strength to adjust to life in a wheelchair, he also felt the psychological impact of knowing his was a life-changing injury.
It definitely hit me hard, he says. I had tried to be quite positive during my rehab, and kept saying "It’s not over yet", determined not to let it beat me. I kept pushing to get the most recovery that I could, but then at the back of my mind was always the thought that I’d never be a firefighter again. I’d always been so independent, fit and healthy, and having that all taken away, it did get me down.
James continues to be a regular visitor at Jubilee House every few months, and says he has seen a significant improvement in his mental state.
Of course you have down days, but I generally see the positives now, he says. I remember seeing posters for The Fire Fighters Charity when I was still working but I didn’t realise how good the facilities were, and you never think you’re going to need them. When you make donations, you think you’re helping someone else. And when money is a bit tight, you don’t think of donating to the Charity. But when you’re faced with a situation where you yourself need them, if you could, you’d go back in time and pay in every month and raise as much money as possible.
The facilities that are available are life-changing; it doesn’t matter if it’s an injury like mine or a shoulder that is playing up and stopping you from working, the Charity changes people’s lives. You don’t think you’ll ever need it, but when you do, you’re so grateful it’s there.