My changing world – Reg Young

Reg Young has joined our team as Peer Support Advisor for Dumfries and Galloway, the role is to provide support to others in the area who are living with spinal cord injuries and to arrange events. 

I was born on the 4th March 1953 in New Amsterdam, Guyana, South America. While there I lived a double life. Mondays to Fridays I lived with my grandmother and attended school. Weekends and school holidays I spent at Kabawer Cattle Ranch with my mother and step father. The ranch was located on the outskirts of the Amazon jungle. Living on the ranch was a real adrenaline rush to me. While there I spent most of my time breaking in the wild horses with the other ranch men, and  working the cattle. I also spent time taking care of my horse, pet monkey, macaw parrot, black tarantula spider, alligator, rattlesnake and sixteen foot python.

In 1968 my world changed when Guyana was granted its independence. The government in its wisdom decided that all the white managers were to leave the country. My step father being white took the golden handshake which was being offered and moved us to Scotland. He was born in a village called Newton Stewart and because his mother still lived there he took me, my mother and grandmother to live with her. At first it was a real culture shock moving to such a different place, and novelty for the villagers meeting a black family for the first time. Newton Stewart is a lovely place and it soon became home.

My step father decided I was to have a British education so he took me to the Douglas Ewart High School to be enrolled. This was the biggest shock to my system because at age sixteen I was put into second year because the standard of education was so different between Guyana and Scotland. It was a real adjustment for me and I soon became familiar with all the kids and teachers. Settling in quickly, and rising to the challenges the school had to offer me.

My step father landed himself a new job as a ranch manager with Zambezi ranching in Zambia, South Africa. This was indeed exciting news as I thought I would be going with him but this was not to be. He was adamant that I was to have a British education and I would go to the ranch during my school holidays. So this was the plan, I stayed in Newton Stewart for my education and my parents went to ranch in Zambia.

My visits to the ranch in Zambia were absolutely amazing! I visited the Victoria falls and went on several safaris to see the wild animals, both of which I would highly recommend. The African people were very welcoming and their way of life was very laid back.

In 1974 I finished up High School having gained my qualifications and moved to Dumfries where I rented a flat in Catherine Street right next door to the library. I worked part time at Fuscos Café in Friars Vennel as a waiter. This I was very good at and made lots of tips! In the evenings I played my guitar & sang in the Queensbury hotel on a Saturday night. After a year I left the café and took up employment as a back door manager with Bookers cash-and-carry. In total I lived in Dumfries for five years and loved every moment of my time there.

Next, because of my love of cattle, I decided to enrol into the West of Scotland Agricultural College in Ayr for two years. Once I finished
college I worked as a dairy manager on several farms in Ayrshire and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately because of the recession I was made redundant and turned to sales. Firstly selling life insurance, then working in Estate Agency, and finally working in property development.

In November 2017 while working as a property developer I was inspecting an attic flat. I went to close the door and the handle came off causing me to somersault backwards down the steep stairs and I injured myself. At the time of my fall although in great pain I picked myself up not realising how badly I had injured myself, and my boss drove me from West Kilbride to the Ayr Hospital. Once they had done a scan they discovered I had broken my neck badly at C6 & C7 level, incomplete. The next day I was rushed by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth spinal unit in Glasgow, deteriorating en route and being rushed into theatre where they operated.  I woke up from the operation the next day to start a long period of recovery and rehabilitation. My consultant told me there was 50% chance I would never move again. I was devastated and I thought my life was over. I wished I had died when I fell and that night my pillow was soaked with my tears. I wanted to kill myself, but I was paralysed from the neck downwards. Tetraplegic was the term I heard them say.

It was soon Christmas but I did not feel festive! My wife Tracey brought my Christmas dinner to the hospital, along with my presents and did everything in her power to cheer me up. My family and friends all came to visit too. I could feel the love and this gave me a sense of contentment. As the weeks went by I started to get stronger and my arms started moving. It felt like a miracle!

As the weeks went by I started to develop a positive mental attitude and decided I was going to fight the situation and one-day walk again. One morning I woke up to see a blonde angel sitting in a wheelchair by the side of my bed smiling. I thought I had died and gone to heaven but no it was Laura Torrance from Spinal Injuries Scotland. Her words were very comforting and I was reassured there was life after spinal injury. She also said I would be visited by the rest of the team over the next few months and I was. Mike, Keira, Andy, Stewart and Mary visited several times. I found their visits very motivational and I constantly looked forward to their return.

Rehab was working, my arms were moving, my right hand was now opening and not only could I sit in a wheelchair, I could propel myself to and from the gym twice-daily. My core strength became stronger and I was desperately trying to learn to transfer from my chair using a banana board but failed miserably. As much as the rehab staff were working very hard to help me to walk my time ran out, I plateaued and was discharged from the hospital after ten months.

When I arrived home in the ambulance it was very exciting as they were yellow ribbons tied everywhere and I could feel the love from Tracey my wife . This has been constant and helps me more than I can express. She had rearranged the furniture in the house to give me free access with my wheelchair and all my belongings were stored at a level that I could reach them. I was allocated carers four times a day to help take care of me and they have been absolutely amazing. I am very fortunate Tracey is a district nurse and she tries to keep everyone right with regards to my care and well-being .

Despite my positivity time passed and I was becoming increasingly bored with being at home with nothing to occupy my mind and then I remembered that Laura had said I would be considered to be a volunteer for Spinal injuries Scotland once I had been in the chair for three years. In November 2020 my three years were up so I applied to be a volunteer. I met up with Maureen, who is operations manager and after a long chat she told me the charity was advertising for a Peer Support Adviser for Dumfries and Galloway. She thought I would be an excellent fit for the job. I applied for the position, was interviewed and as luck would have it I am now the new Peer Support Adviser for Dumfries and Galloway.

I have certainly experience great changes in my life so far and faced many different challenges, but I truly believe that with a positive mental attitude you can achieve your dream. Now I can embrace my latest challenges helping support others through my role with Spinal Injuries Scotland.