Still Rolling – Tony Trev Baker
“My name is Tony Trev Baker, and I live in a town called Retford in Nottinghamshire, UK. I prefer to be called Trev. I am a C4 Tetraplegic, which means I broke my neck, four vertebrae from the top. This happened on New Year’s Eve, 1999. I use a powerchair for mobility, and I live independently with 24-hour care.”Trev Baker
Trev suffered a life changing injury nearly 20 years ago, where his life was literally ripped apart and he broke his neck, leaving him dependent on carers and the use of a powerchair for mobility.
Still Rolling is a remarkable account of one man’s determination not to be beaten by his injury and live a life of possibility not disability. The book covers topics ranging from life experiences, to travel, to overcoming obstacles and barriers.
“Trev is resilience personified! A rolling inspiration, author, accomplished public speaker and action man. The term ‘post traumatic growth’ is a reflection of Trev’s life after suffering a catastrophic life changing injury that left him paralysed… Trev’s unique combination of humour, brutal honesty, humility and charisma makes him a world class speaker, author and motivational coach.”Reece Coker – Founder, SquarePeg
I’m always looking for something different to do, and I was asked if I would like to try powerchair football. I’m usually on the side or coaching when it comes to sport, so I thought I’d give this a go.
The first time I went, I was hoisted into the chair, and the chair was set on speed 3. It was a little bit twitchy at first, and the joystick was placed quite a bit ahead of me and not in the right position. One of the coaches had already said that it couldn’t be moved back, so I struggled straightaway by moving myself forward. I couldn’t quite reach the joystick, so I went and spoke to him, and he was able to slide the armrest back a couple of inches, so the golf ball was in a better position.
I did get moving but thought it would be easier to try it on speed two first. I am used to a mid-wheel drive powerchair, not a rear wheel drive one. My chair is more accurate and built for manoeuvrability. Whereas rear wheel drive ones offer more power. I had a bit of a whizz around the hall, and it felt different from what I was used to.
I felt that the chair itself was tough to control and the acceleration was far too quick, I spoke to one of the coaches, and they were able to adapt the control system of the chair. I felt that I was able to keep the speed, but the initial acceleration was easy to manage and didn’t throw me around as much.
The first skill they set up was slalom. It felt quite easy on speed 2 and stable, so I turned it up to speed 3. The chair was very twitchy and quick. I found once the chair initially got going it was okay to steer in and out of the poles. It was just the start up that was very jumpy.
Dribbling a ball, which was about 2 feet in diameter, was a hard skill to learn and practice.
The chairs have a bumper around the front of your feet and at the back so you could push the ball going forward, and to pass the ball, you are meant to use the outside edge of the guard before the front wheels. When learning passing skills initially, I was hitting the ball with the left-hand side of the chair. I then discovered that one is meant to swing right and then quickly swing it to the left, so the momentum of the chair hits the ball. I found it was quite tricky to do, as when to moving the chair’s position and I had to deal with the twitchiness of the chair and then swing around. I struggled with this at first!
The first team game we played was tennis. 2 teams outside of the line face each other, you have to hit the ball over the centerline. I found it gave me more chance to get used to the manoeuvrability of the chair. I was pretty good at blocking the ball, passing it to others and getting it over the line. The kids and the others were like pros. They were bombing around left right and centre. I was mainly using the front of the chair, but they were spinning around in circles and hitting the ball with the front, back and sides then spinning 270 degrees in what you’d think is the opposite direction, and then hitting the ball with some power.
Powerchair dodgeball was a great game. There were ten powerchairs speeding around the sports hall, most of them on full speed and the coaches kept throwing in balls. We had to dodge them and all the chairs. If a chair got hit three times, you were out. I thought this was absolute mayhem and really hilarious. The game was an excellent way of getting used to spatial awareness and how the chair performed. It was great fun.
At the end of the first session when people were getting out of their chairs. I tried it on full speed, and it was crazy. As soon as it accelerated the chair did a wheelie. They were mad, twitchy and sensitive. I felt like I was on a bucking Bronco, I was laughing my head off. Once it got going at full speed, it wasn’t too bad to steer and manoeuvre, it was just getting started.
Slalom was a tricky skill to master, and the chairs are tough to drive in reverse! I did slow down the speed of my chair and found it was better to control. Sometimes I was physically pushing the golf ball with my knuckles and sometimes resting my hand on top of the golf ball. I found it easier to drive when my hand is cupping the ball, because this is how I operate my chair, but I can’t always get my hand in position. I found this frustrating and challenging due to having no grip or useable function of my hands.
I did find afterwards that I was ever so dizzy. The movement of the chair jerking around battered my body and caused me a lot of aches and pains!
After going a few more times, I felt more comfortable with the powerchair and how it moved. Spatial awareness is critical, such as figuring out where other players are when the ball is coming and how to position the chair. I felt a lot more comfortable and confident driving the chair and controlling the ball at the same time. My main problem was trying to keep the momentum going on the chair. By constantly moving, takes away the jerkiness and twitching of the chair.
I struggle with getting tired quickly and my response time isn’t always great, as I have to try and fight the spasm created by the chair. We adapted the chair and put a bit of drainpipe on the armrest. I found my arm was naturally sitting near the joystick instead of having to hold the weight of my arm. It made a huge difference and made it easier to control.
“I hope to have broken down some barriers and perceptions of what it is like to live with a disability and what can be achieved when you set your mind to it. You can accomplish so much by challenging yourself, overcoming obstacles and adversity, digging deep into your inner strength when all odds are against you, by letting yourself believe something is possible even though others doubt it.”Trev Baker