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Camino challenge with a spinal injury: Paul’s 500-mile trek

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Posted on 25th April 2018.

A 500-mile trek may not sound like your idea of a holiday, but for Paul it is a chance to achieve a lifelong goal. Starting on the 1st of May 2018, we’re following his journey of the Camino de Santiago – the pilgrim route of the Pyrenees – from very start and all the way to the finish line.
Paul Smart

Paul was a fit and active gentleman before a fall left him with life-changing injuries over 17 years ago. Paralysed with the loss of the use of his arms or legs, he spent 14 months in the Duke of Cornwell Spinal Unit in Salisbury where he learnt to live a new life with this injury.

“I have always had a positive attitude and an adventurous nature.” Paul

Paul knew that they’d be challenges ahead as he started to rebuild his life, but nobody could have guessed that one of his greatest would be one he took on willingly. The Camino de Santiago is a large system of ancient pilgrim trails which spans across Europe and ends at the tomb of St James in northern Spain.

When describing the adventure, Paul – who is 60 years old and from Salisbury – said “I will have a wonderful team of family and friends and carers pushing/walking with me and I feel very positive and passionate about completing this special and very personal journey.”

Paul, along with his friends and family, have been training for up to four hours a day as they look forward to this challenge. His has been trailing different terrains in chilly weather conditions to get a feel of what is to come.

Sailing in early May from Portsmouth, Paul and his team will spend 5 to 7 weeks walking and travelling across Europe, completing almost 12 miles a day. The difficult terrain on the trail as well as the physical hardship on Paul will combine with his complex daily needs, meaning that he will need a carer who can balance this.

Finding a carer for an exceptional expedition

Guido, the live-in carer supporting Paul

It was earlier this year that Paul approached Helping Hands for a carer to accompany him on this trip. He was looking for someone who would tend to his care needs in his fully-adapted motor home, as well as provide some valuable support and encouragement along the way.

We sent out a call for carers who were interested in this new and rewarding challenge, searching for that special someone who had the necessary experience as well as the drive to help Paul on this journey. Through this searching we found Guido, an active and experienced individual who already had a taste for adventure from his surfing trips and extensive travelling.

Although Guido has the option of staying and sleeping in the motor home while Paul and his team travels across the rocky trails of Spain, he is eager to take on the challenge himself. With Paul’s care needs as his top priority, Guido will also join in on the trek and walk alongside him.

Raising money for spinal injuries

All of the funds raised during this challenge will go to the Southern Spinal Injury Trust (SSIT), a charity that enables people with spinal injuries to maintain independence and a good quality of life by either funding resources for spinal centres or individual needs.

In the UK, there are over 40,000 people living with a spinal cord injury, with another 1,000 people being newly injured each year. The rise of injuries due to falls, road traffic accidents, and sporting accidents has meant that there are many individuals who are trying to rebuild their lives and the SSIT works hard to make this transition easier by providing necessary equipment.

Paul became a trustee for the charity in 2013 as he understood from first-hand experience about the equipment needed to live an independent and comfortable life, equipment that is often quite expensive. SSIT aims to bridge the funding gap in order to bring specialist equipment to those in need.

Paul Smart in training for his Camino challenge

Join Paul’s adventure, or help a good cause

This challenge is not a closed one – Paul is inviting all who wish to participate to join him. This could be for the whole trek or just a couple of days, whatever you wish to do. Contact him via his website to join in on this epic adventure.

Read more about Paul’s story to find out how else you can support this courageous man on his journey of a lifetime, and donate online.

Kerry Wright