A FORMER scaffolder who was left paralysed after a car crash 18 years ago has now landed his dream job and hopes to use his experiences to help others.

Andrew Wilkinson, 37, from Cwmbran, was paralysed from his chest down as a result of the crash in 2003.

Following the crash Mr Wilkinson spent four-and-a-half months at Cardiff’s Rookwood Hospital recovering from his injuries.


And now, Mr Wilkinson has secured a permanent position at the hospital as an assistive technologist with the charity Aspire - helping others adapt to their new lives as wheelchair users by using technology or devices so they can learn, communicate, and function better.

“When I got my injury I didn’t know which way I wanted to go,” he said. “I didn’t understand my disability or what was going to happen.

“Being discharged from hospital and being sat at home with nothing to do - I had always worked full time before as a scaffolder - it was like 'I'm home now, what do I do?'

“I did my rehab, and my physiotherapist asked if I wanted to sign up to a multi-activity course at the Lake District run by the Back Up Trust. There I got to learn wheelchair skills and did activities like abseiling and kayaking. It teaches you there’s more to life and shows you the different things you can do.

“After I came home from that, it was a massive boost in confidence.”

Mr Wilkinson was a keen sportsman, and took up javelin, even reaching the Welsh squad and competing in the World Championships in Taiwan.

During this time, he also volunteered at Rookwood Hospital, as well as with spinal injury charities including the Back Up Trust.

Last year, with his youngest child joining school full-time, Mr Wilkinson sought a return to employment.

He interviewed for a job with the Spinal Injury Association, and although he didn’t get the job, volunteered with the charity.

He then contacted the Bridges into Work 2 programme, where he received support from employment mentors Aled and Jaki, completed an online learning course for coronavirus prevention, received an updated CV tailored to his skills and attributes and was able to secure his dream job with Aspire.

“From the start, Jaki made me feel comfortable and gave me the confidence to believe in myself,” said Mr Wilkinson. “She took the time to talk about my interests, explore the different courses available and helped me put together a fantastic CV.

“I received calls every day in the lead up to the interview and as a result, my self-esteem had been boosted and it gave me the confidence to believe in myself.

“I will be forever grateful to Jaki and the team and would say to anyone wanting to explore their employment or training options, to get in touch with the Bridges into Work 2, it could be life changing for you.”

“These three charities - the Back Up Trust, Spinal Injury Association and Aspire - are charities which can really be life-changing to anyone with a spinal cord injury,” he added.