Mary Bell - Peer Support Advisor Mary Bell - Peer Support Adviser For Dumfries & Galloway Area Contact: E: [email protected] Click here to see Mary's up and coming Coffee Meets dates Mary has been with Spinal Injuries Scotland as a Peer Support since July 2021 Mary's Story I’m Mary Bell and I’m the new Peer support advisor for Dumfries and Galloway and I’m thrilled to bits about it. It is probably one of the most important roles I’ve ever had taken on in my life thus far and I hope to do it to the best of my ability…. I’d like to tell you a wee bit about me and how I got where I am now if that’s ok … so why don't you grab a cuppa and let’s get started. I was born premature 3 months early to be precise and the size of a 2lb bag of sugar in Bellshill maternity hospital in South Lanarkshire 57 years ago. I was a curious wee lassie and I loved learning everything about everything! and I ran everywhere apparently!! I was very sporty and competitive. I played hockey for Scotland under 18’s and was quite successful in athletics too… however, a hockey accident resulting in breaking the head of my femur put a quick end to any sporting aspirations on the hockey field. Leaving school after my higher exams at 17 I trained in illustration and design at Glasgow School of Art and then went on to do my teacher training at Jordanhill College. Working as a secondary art and music teacher for several years was a great gig however a chance posting moved me into the learning support area and knew I had found my niche. During my teaching career, I studied for my art and music therapy Post Grad Diplomas. In my mid-thirties on recovering from a virus I developed Ménière's disease. A rare disorder of the inner ear - this left me with a severe to profound hearing loss, horrid vertigo issues and tinnitus. I ended up with anxiety and depression (so severe that I was hospitalised) I was medically retired from teaching which was a devastating blow. Since losing my hearing when I was 36. I have obtained my SVQ level 3 in British Sign Language. During my recovery I began working voluntarily with small children and adult groups which included individuals with additional support needs, using my experience of music and art. On the 6th June 2004 Whilst driving my car I was involved in a hit and run accident and sustained a high-level spinal injury (C5-7 incomplete) which affects my hand function, coordination and balance, and I am now a full-time wheelchair user. I work during school term time as Music practitioner for two Music Charities - “Drake Music Scotland” and “Hear My Music” I have taught music to Deaf children in Greenock and beyond for the last 14 years and I hope to continue this important work. Spinal Injuries Scotland arrived into my life when I needed them most, (as they so aptly do) they have been extremely beneficial this past 2 years or so during the Covid-19 Pandemic when I was shielding. During the weekly zoom chats I’ve met people and made friends in other parts of Scotland that I know I would never have met any other way and it’s been brilliant. - so you see there is always something positive in every tough situation… we just have to dig a little harder for it sometimes.. but it is there… My passion is making life and activities accessible for everyone, and lots of fun too! I am a competitive wheelchair curler and I also enjoy sailing. I love drawing caricatures…(so watch out… you could be next..) I also love creating with stained and fused glass. I live in Dumfries and have two sons and I’m also staff to my beautiful cat called Layla I’m really looking forward to catching up with you soon in one of our Zoom chats. See you there!