“The charity has given me hope - without it, I wouldn’t be at the level of recovery and mental state that I am.”
Those were the words of 26-year-old Giselle Moor, who has benefited from the extraordinary rehabilitation work being carried out at the Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough on the Hill since being left paralysed by a terrible motorbike accident.
It’s now a year since the facility was opened by the Matt Hampson Foundation, which supports people recovering from traumatic injuries.
The driving force behind it all, of course, is former Leicester Tigers rugby player Matt Hampson, who suffered paralysis from the neck down following a training ground injury with the England Under 21 squad in 2005.
He has been wheelchair-bound ever since and breathes with the aid of a ventilator but has somehow found the spirit and determination to found and shape a charity which has helped many others in the same position as him for the last nine years.
Giselle is just one of the dozens of people helped by the centre and her nomination led to a prestigious award for it as Best Health Charity at The Sun newspaper’s recent Who Cares Wins Health Awards, which were hosted by TV presenter Lorraine Kelly.
After sustaining her devastating injuries 14 months ago, Giselle was able to take her first steps unaided when she visited the £2.5million Burrough centre, which was officially opened a year ago by the charity’s patron, former England rugby star Mike Tindall.
I spoke to Matt about the remarkable achievements of the Get Busy Living Centre over the last 12 months and this is a flavour of what he told me:
NICK RENNIE: How has the first year gone with the GBL centre and what have been the main achievements so far?
MATT HAMPSON: It’s been a whirlwind. We obviously had massive expectations and tried to push things forward to make the most of the facility.
It’s gone really, really well. Better than we could have imagined. If you had told me three years ago the place would be up and running and helping change people’s lives I would have been over the moon.
NR: How many people have visited the centre for rehab and support over the first year and what kind of range of disabilities do they suffer from?
MH: We see an average of 10 to 15 people a day but it’s usually more than that. We are doing amazing things and changing so many lives.
It is people with lots of different injuries that we help at the centre. Some amputees, people who are paralysed from the neck down, others who are paralysed below the waist. These are people from all different backgrounds.
The NHS is stretched, as we know, but they are learning a lot from what we are doing and how we support the rehabilitation of people with serious injuries.
We have 10 employees, including a neuro physio, who is currently on maternity leave, and a personal trainer.
NR: Are there any particular individuals who have made significant progress through visiting the centre and what kind of progress have they made?
MH: Gisele, who nominated us for the recent award, is absolutely amazing. She’s improving every week and inspiring all of us too. We have had so many people with inspiring stories like her.
NR: Are there any plans to develop the site further to increase the GBL service and are there any plans to set up centres in other parts of the country?
MH: We are waiting for phase two to start operating which will allow people to stay for two to three days on site. We have planning permission from Melton Borough Council and we also have Davidson Homes supporting us. We will have two self-contained lodges which will be really great living spaces with a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. We are also planning to put a hydrotherapy pool in to extend what we do.
It is a little early to be thinking about creating other Get Busy Living Centres but I would love to see us have one in the north of the country and another in the south.
NR: How important have people like the charity patron Mike Tindall been to the success of the Get Busy Living Centre?
MH: Mike and his wife Zara has been such big supporters and they both go above and beyond what a normal patron would do for a charity. They organise a golf day and Mike attends every event that we organise. He genuinely cares about the work we do.
NR: So Matt, who is going to win the Rugby World Cup?
MH: I would like to think England have a shout. New Zealand are going to be pretty tough to beat and South Africa as well. But I am just so pleased for Japan for the way they have played and the tournament they have put on. I think they’ve changed the rugby world and they’ve done it playing a great style of rugby.
NR: Finally Matt, how has the extraordinary success of your charity helped you tackle the challenges you face in your own life as a result of your own disability?
MH: I get more from this place than I actually give to it, to be honest. It’s an amazing atmosphere we’ve created here. It’s like a big family. It inspires me on a daily basis. And when I don’t get the chance to come here I really do miss it. When a new person comes to us we just say to them ‘life is very difficult for you but we will help you make your life better’. I feel honoured to be here and to be a part of it.
***Matt Hampson has joined forces with former Scotland rugby player, Doddie Weir, who suffers from motor neurone disease (MND), to host a special charity dinner. Proceeds will go to their respective charities, Matt Hampson Foundation and My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which funds MND research.
Tables and tickets for the 2019 Rugby Captains Dinner, which is in Battersea, London, on November 21, are available from Clare Morton by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07894 981002.