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Meet the Team: SIA's Overseas Cycle Challenge 2022

As we enter the final week before the 2022 version of our overseas cycle ride – a 200-mile circuit around Tuscany – we are keen to share some of the stories of our amazing team members.

One of our inspirational spinal cord injured cyclists taking on the annual challenge for the second time is Helen, who last took on our trip around eastern Europe in 2019.

A keen horse rider, Helen has had her fair share of injuries, breaking nearly all of her ribs, collar bone and most of her fingers. However, the worst injury she has suffered was the one she refers to as “the big one” in 2010. Falling from her horse, Helen shattered both her wrists, and sustained a spinal cord injury, fracturing the vertebrae at T3 and C2, an injury often referred to as “the Hangman’s Break”.

Spinal cord injuries at such a high level often result in significant damage – and Helen remembers her consultant at the time remarking that although the initial prognosis was bleak, she should think herself lucky to even be alive.

After weeks spent immobilised to minimise the risk of further damaging her spinal cord, and intense rehabilitation, Helen managed to regain her mobility, learning to walk, and eventually to ride a horse and begin cycling again.

After sustaining her injury, Helen found out about us, and the support we can offer to people like her who have sustained such life-changing injuries

In her own words, Helen explains:

‘At 68 years old, I still enjoy cycling and horse riding and continue to enjoy a fulfilling life. I am determined to practice on my trusted three speed bike in order to be ready for the hills and complete Team SIA’s Tuscany Challenge. This will be no easy feat and I would be extremely grateful for any sponsorship to help me on my way in supporting this worthy cause. Thank you.’

After initially feeling a bit nervous about taking on a three-day ride through Croatia, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia in 2019, Helen soon found herself to be extremely well-equipped to take on the challenge, with her sheer determination and tenacity being noted by everyone on the trip – leaving a fair few other riders in her wake in the process!

Chris Massarella, SIA’s Partnership Manager (in charge of the cycle challenge this year), offered huge praise for Helen:

‘Having gotten to know Helen over the past couple of years, it is really wonderful to see how supportive she is of SIA, and the lengths she is prepared to go to in order to help other members of the SCI community. Cycling the best part of 200 miles is tough, but Helen manages it with a smile on a face, and kind words for everyone. Helen is such a loveable character, with a wonderful sense of humour, and a real drive to get the job done. We are all delighted to have her in the team again this year, and I am sure she will be doing her bit to keep the team going (particularly over the hills)!’

Thank you Helen for all your hard work and support on this monumental challenge, we wish you and the team the very best of luck, and hope you have a great time! 

To find out more about Helen’s story, or to show your support, you can visit her Just Giving page here.

We would also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Emma Way, and the team at Emma Way Case Management for kindly sponsoring Helen’s efforts this year. Although Emma was sadly unable to take part this year, having struck up a friendship with Helen on the 2019 ride, she was keen to help Helen’s efforts this year however she could, and Emma and her team have worked hard to help Helen throughout  – which we are incredibly grateful for.