An Edge Hill student was inspired to help others with spinal injuries after his own life-changing motorbike crash.
Andrew Sutcliffe broke his neck in a road traffic accident which put him in a coma for three months but after a long road to recovery he has now graduated with a degree in health and social wellbeing.
The 48-year-old has his sights set on working in the care sector, drawing on his lived experience to support other people with spinal injuries.
“The accident made me realise how quickly my life could’ve gone,” Andrew said. “I ended up in a wheelchair for a long time and the brain injury meant I couldn’t talk, I had to blink in response to yes and no questions to communicate.
“But I obviously had someone looking after me, saying it wasn’t my time yet.
“I understand why some people give up after an experience like that but I was just more encouraged than ever. It inspired me to make the most of what I’ve got rather than just sitting back. Life goes on.”
Andrew, originally from Liverpool but now living in Southport, was unable to return to his old job or house after the accident because of his spinal injury. He had begun to regain independence when an ingrowing hair caused an infection which required surgery; he was again forced to bedrest for six months while recovering, which set back his rehabilitation.
But he was fortunate to have the support and love of his wife Grace, who helped get him back on his feet. She saw his potential and encouraged him to try university.
Andrew’s grit and determination helped him manage full-time study during the Covid-19 pandemic, and his study in turn helped him channel his new-found ambition into a passion for helping others.
“I couldn’t believe how some people had spoken to me when I was recovering and in a wheelchair, even some carers. People would talk to my mum instead of me, or they would talk to me like a child, treating me like I didn‘t understand anything.
“I’ve got lived experience so I can really help other people coming to terms with spinal injury and disabilities; I really understand what they’re going through and can offer real emotional support.
“Often when you go to daycare centres or support sessions there’ll be someone sat by themselves and you can see they don’t know what to do, you can see they’re really struggling. I know how that feels, it’s horrible.
“I want my experience to be encouraging to others so I’ll just go over. Because no-one should ever feel that way.”
Andrew thanked staff and fellow students at Edge Hill University for supporting him throughout his degree, particularly his personal tutor and programme leader Alison Holbourn.
“They couldn’t do enough for me – from organising my classes so they were on the ground floor whenever possible to regularly checking in to see how I was doing – I always knew there was support there if I needed it.”
Find out more about studying BA (Hons) Health and Social Wellbeing at Edge Hill.