Stuart McMillan - Outreach Co-Ordinator

TEL: 07494 205861

EMAIL: [email protected]

Stuart has been with Spinal Injuries Scotland since 2019. First as a volunteer, then as a Peer Support Advisor and in 2021 became the out reach co-ordinator.

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Stuart's Story

I was born in Sighthill Edinburgh at the” High flats” as we used to call the three high rise 16 story flats which adorned the Calder road and Sighthill park. These were located on the western fringes of Edinburgh, although it didn’t seem like it at the time relatively close to the countryside, which unfortunately has now been consumed by the march of “progress”.

As kids growing up in the ‘70’s me, my brother and all our friends were keen cyclists maintaining and modifying our bikes. We would range far and wide throughout these country areas, long before the Gyle was turned into the industrial estate and consumer area it is now, it was an abandoned farm which we used as an area to off road and practice stunts on our bikes. Or we’d take a packed lunch and go over the Pentland Hills, down to Cramond, or down the coast to North Berwick.

Enthused by stories from our Dad’s “Rocker” days of the ‘60’s café racing at the Longstone café, we became very much interested in motorbikes from a very early age. This enthusiasm culminated in owning my first bike at the age of 12, having ridden friends’ bikes for a few years prior to this.

As the years went by I graduated from a 125cc Honda up to a 250 Yamaha, Kawasaki 550, Honda 750, Kawasaki 900, Yamaha R1 and finally a number of Ducati’s. Throughout this progression all of my family had motorbikes, my brother a Suzuki 1100 my Dad a Triumph T140 Bonneville (Which I still have) and my Mum had a Harley 883 and Honda XBR500 (Which I still have). A few years racing a Yamaha 350 Powervalve and a Honda CBR600 would whet my appetite for racing, which I could never afford to do again when the family came along.

Albeit I couldn’t race again I would find myself going off on my bike to all the different biking events about the country MotoGP, WorldSBK, BSB and Bike rallies. As you can gather motorcycles were firmly part of my DNA, as was cycling which had never left me but had been put to one side.

On realising that one was getting a bit “chunky” I decided to take up cycling again as way of keeping fit, going out of an evening with a mate and cycling off-road over the Pentland hills for 30 miles. Soon enough I understood the limitations of my bike and I bought a proper full suspension mountain bike, this started a new chapter of cycling in my life. Venturing off to Glentress to be tutored in proper off-road skills. Gaining in confidence being capable to regularly do the Black Run, which is one monumental climb followed by some of the most exciting, challenging and outright terrifying fun anyone can have!

I worked offshore from 2003 in the Forties Field with Apache North Sea. Previously I had worked at Grangemouth in the oil and gas sector. I absolutely loved my new career one of the main benefits being the work pattern, of two weeks offshore and three home leave.

As an offshore worker, I would spend my downtime going to the gym and planning all my two wheeled exploits for when I returned to terra firma. These would be bike trips with mates off to foreign countries Eastern Europe or around the UK, a family holiday to Tenerife or Glentress/Innerleithen action.

In between all of this I would work on my collection of motorbikes and renovate my Dad’s Triumph and my 1962 T100 SS, or my BMW Z4. As you can understand I had many hobbies to fill my time, the majority of which involving wheels and engines.

It was at precisely this point I made the mistake of thinking to myself “My life’s perfect, things couldn’t get much better” Ha ha! Well they say that 'when you make plans, the God’s laugh.'

All my plans and hopes would come to a very abrupt end when I made the mistake of colliding with a car at 40mph!!

Thus, a new chapter of my life was borne, life as a T6 paraplegic permanently in a wheelchair.

No more motorbikes! No more mountain bikes! No more offshore! Everything which shaped me, and my life was stripped away and effectively I’ve had to reinvent myself.

In rehab after my accident the realisation that all the things I loved doing would no longer be available to me. At this time, I met with Mike Thomas and Laura Torrance from Spinal Injuries Scotland, between them both they made me realise that there could be life after injury and it could still contain some of the elements of my previous hobbies.

This is where Spinal Injuries Scotland entered my life and began the next and current chapter.

It’s very easy to get into deep dark places mentally when one’s physical capabilities are taken away so severely, especially when you have been so used to living an active life pre-injury. Being able to speak to people who can not only empathize, but who have experienced these emotions first hand, to me this was invaluable. This lifted me a great degree and I vowed that I would get involved with Spinal Injuries as a volunteer to help others.

Whilst I was in the SIU at QEUH Glasgow there was the annual Spinal Injuries Scotland BBQ, which I attended for the first time. I was able to sample hand bikes and sailing. To say I was smitten was an understatement! I loved it! There were other activities such as powerboat, kayaking, canoeing but they couldn’t get me off the sailboat or hand bike.

I now pursue handcycling as a means of getting around, having invested in a BATEC Hybrid attachment for my wheel chair, also recently been able to get out in proper recumbent hand cycle through Access to Cycling in Edinburgh. As for the sailing I was able to get out on Lochwinnoch at this years BBQ.

Since my accident I have been Skiing in Colorado, through BackUp. This was an amazing trip involving my very first intercontinental flight and first-time skiing. I also attended an over 50’s activity course in the Lake District which involved sailing, kayaking, abseiling and a push around Lake Derwent.

I regularly get the opportunity to take to the track in a race car thanks to Colin Duthie and the team at DMS (Disability Motorsport) having just come back from a day out at Kames at time of writing. I have also been gliding through the Charity “Walking on Air” which I plan to do again in the coming weeks. It’s quite incredible to think that all these new activities I’ve tried since my injury, which I’m not letting hold me back.

Fortunately, as soon as I left the SIU I was already driving my own little sports car, a BMW Z4 which albeit isn’t the ideal transport for a wheelchair user, but it harked back to my able-bodied days. This has allowed me the freedom to pursue all these events and generally maintain an active life without having to rely upon my long-suffering wife, Lynda to give me a lift.

As I said before I was awoken to the brilliant work that Spinal Injuries Scotland do, by the presence of Laura, Mike, Kiera, Andy and all the other volunteers in the SIU, which meant as soon as I was able I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer myself. In due course a further opportunity arose to take up a position with Spinal Injuries Scotland as an Outreach Support Advisor for the Borders and Dumfries, I knew that car would come in handy.