MRM caught up with UKSCF ambassador, Henry Fraser, who supports the charity and work they do supporting paraplegics after suffering a spinal cord injury while on holiday with friends.
What made you choose to support the work of UKSCF?
UKSCF is a project very close to my heart for obvious reasons. It has the ability to change lives.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how donating to UKSCF make a difference to those affected by spinal cord injuries such as yours?
In 2009, while on holiday with friends, I ran into the sea, dived into the surf and damaged my spinal cord leaving me unable to move my arms and legs.
I remember lying in my hospital bed in Portugal just over six years ago unable to move anything from my neck down. My parents were there by my bed saying, “imagine what medical science can do in 10, even 15, years’ time”.
Five years early, the future is here.
At the end of 2014 medical science had one of its greatest ever breakthroughs. They managed to repair a damaged spinal cord and got a wheelchair-bound man walking again. This project was funded by the UKSCF.
Professor Geoffrey Raisman has had his idea on how to repair damaged spinal cords for 40 years and has been shot down many, many times by those who said it will never work. He has proved them wrong. He never gave up on what he believed in and for that, I and many others will be forever grateful.
The UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF) has been funding Professor Geoffrey Raisman’s project since 2007 and already raised over £2.5 million.
The UKSCF still needs to raise about £3 million. The current tranche of funding is in place until January 2016. What they are hoping to do is fund at least five individuals to take part in a clinical trial in London to show that what the team are doing is safe and efficacious. Then they can expand the trial, including more patients with different types of spinal injury.
There are three million people around the globe with a spinal cord injury and the average care required to support them is estimated to be approximately £5 million in their lifetime. While foundations in New York, Florida and California receive hundreds of millions of dollars in State funding each year to run labs and SCI facilities, UKSCF receives no government funding and relies on donations from the general public. UKSCF has got Professor Raisman’s work to the clinical trial phase and he and the team are the only group to have achieved this.
The charity runs a really small team to ensure that minimal funds are spent on operational costs and therefore more funding goes to the projects.
Whether it be now or future generations that are saved from experiencing the trauma that comes with a spinal cord injury, we can change it!
The differene that can be made – from regaining temperature control, to being able to breath independently, to scratching one’s own nose and to even walking again – you have no idea what people with spinal cord injuries dream of.
There is still work to do and time is needed. But like many I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Who, if there is anyone, is your biggest inspiration?
Matt Hampson is my inspiration [Matt Hampson suffered an accident during an England Under 21s rugby training session, leading to paralysis from the neck down and requires a ventilator to breathe. To read more about his story click here]. His injury is much more severe than mine, he is permanently ventilated, yet he is one of the busiest people I know making the most of all he has.
Your positive attitude towards life inspires people every day. What’s the one piece of advice, that you want to give to people who are facing difficult or near impossible situations?
I would always say to people, look at everything you can do rather than everything you can’t do. Then every day is a good day!