Unique Burrough rehab centre helps victims of catastrophic sporting injuries

Matt Hampson in the lounge area at the Get Busy Living centre at Burrough-on-th-Hill EMN-180608-115204001
Matt Hampson in the lounge area at the Get Busy Living centre at Burrough-on-th-Hill EMN-180608-115204001
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It would have been very easy for Matt Hampson to give up on life in March 2005.

His dream of playing rugby union at the highest level had been cruelly snatched away when a scrum collapsed on him while playing for the England Under 21 team.

No Caption ABCDE EMN-180608-115310001

No Caption ABCDE EMN-180608-115310001

His injuries were catastrophic. Paralysed from the neck down, Matt was condemned to spending life in a wheelchair using a ventilator to help him breathe.

But fast forward 13 years from that terrible moment when his broken body lay on the turf at Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens stadium and there has been a remarkable transformation in his life.

He has opened a unique rehabilitation centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill to help other people who have suffered life-changing injuries while playing sport.

In the short time, it has been open the Get Busy Living Centre has supported dozens of badly injured people from all over the UK and abroad, helping to heal their minds as well as their bodies.

The Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115226001

The Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115226001

Running the facility has clearly been cathartic for Matt (33), who told the Melton Times while relaxing in the lounge area: “I feel motivated every day just by coming here.

“It helps me to focus and takes the emphasis off my own situation.

“It’s all about how you choose to live - you can either let your injuries define your life or, quite literally, you can get busy living.

“The mental side of coping with a serious injury is much more difficult than the physical challenges you face.

Manager Darrel White tries out one of the gym machines at the Get Busy Living Centre EMN-180608-115237001

Manager Darrel White tries out one of the gym machines at the Get Busy Living Centre EMN-180608-115237001

“It is so difficult mentally to adjust to being disabled, especially when you’ve been a physical person who enjoys playing sport.

“But this place is really helping people - I see the lift people get just through being with other people who are in the same position as them.”

You may recognise the name of the centre from a speech made in the iconic Hollywood movie, The Shawshank Redemption, which centres around a man who is wrongly jailed for life for two murders who comes to terms with his sentence and helps others.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying - I got busy living,” says the film’s main character, played by Tim Robbins.

The Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115215001

The Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115215001

The parallels are strikingly similar with the path that Matt has chosen.

The Matt Hampson Foundation was founded in December 2010, with the mission to support young people struck down with devastating sporting injuries.

But Matt, who lives at Cold Overton, felt the charity needed a permanent hub where all the beneficiaries could meet and help each other, as well as work on their physical fitness and rehabilitation.

The result was the Get Busy Living Centre, which is equipped on the first floor with state-of-the-art exercise equipment, with adaptations to cater for all types of disability, and there are incredible panoramic views from the windows across surrounding countryside.

A slogan painted on the wall reads ‘Fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free’.

The ground floor boasts an open plan kitchen which merges with a relaxation area and large screen television. There are also physio rooms and a boardroom for meetings of the charity’s board members and which is also hired out by businesses for team-bonding or brainstorming away days.

Matt Hampson and colleagues from the charity relax in the decking area which contains slabs with messages from sponsors and supporters of the Get Busy Living Centre EMN-180608-115248001

Matt Hampson and colleagues from the charity relax in the decking area which contains slabs with messages from sponsors and supporters of the Get Busy Living Centre EMN-180608-115248001

The £2.5 million centre only cost £800,000 to build thanks to the remarkable generosity of building firms and furniture suppliers, as well as local tradespeople who gave their time for free.

“It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are with everything we’ve done,” said Matt, whose enthusiasm for his work is infectious.

“The way everyone has rallied around with this centre has restored my faith in humankind.”

Work started on building the centre last year. The foundation’s patron - former England rugby star Mike Tindall - was present at a topping out ceremony with volunteers and supporters.

The centre sits on the historic site of a former hanger, which housed the aircraft which flew former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain to his meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1938.

It is managed by Darrel White, who met Matt while they were both recovering from their injuries at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire.

Darrel, who has been wheelchair-bound since a fall from a ladder, was cooking pasta when the Melton Times arrived for our tour of the impressive facility.

He said: “The centre was designed with an open plan kitchen because we wanted to make sure all the beneficiaries, their carers and their family members had a big space to get together, eat some food and perhaps watch sport on the big screen.

“There are so many people we have helped already - you can’t believe the change in people once they come here.

“They now call us from their hospital bed shortly after they’ve had their injury - that was one of our aims to be the first port of call for people who’ve had sports injuries.”

Every person helped by the foundation or the Get Busy Living centre has a remarkable story to tell of how a positive outlook can transform a seemingly hopeless life into one full of promise.

Darrel is clearly in awe of everything Matt has achieved in such a short time.

He added: “We already have plans to expand this site and Matt’s dream is to have centres in the north and the south and abroad as well.

“He just has incredible drive - if he’s ever unhappy about something he doesn’t hold back, he will shred you if you’ve not done something right because he has such high standards.”

Top names in sport are expected to take part in the official opening of the centre in October.

The open plan kitchen area at the Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115153001

The open plan kitchen area at the Get Busy Living Centre at Burrough-on-the-Hill EMN-180608-115153001

Matt Hampson with his foundation patron, Mike Tindall (centre), and fellow volunteers and supporters at a topping out ceremony in March 2017 EMN-180608-123253001

Matt Hampson with his foundation patron, Mike Tindall (centre), and fellow volunteers and supporters at a topping out ceremony in March 2017 EMN-180608-123253001