Back Up: transforming lives after spinal cord injury

back up logo

This month we are featuring the brilliant charity Back Up which shares PLG’s desire to enable those with a spinal cord injury to achieve their ambitions whether that is in their adapted home, their jobs, family life or recreation time.

Back Up was created in 1986 after Mike Nemesvary, famed for being a stuntman and skier in James Bond’s ‘A View to a Kill’, had life changing injuries at the age of just 24. He was determined to get Back Up a mountain, and not only did he achieve that but he gave hope to so many others with spinal cord injuries that they could too!

So it was only appropriate that Back Up emerged from the darkness of the pandemic earlier this year with a 007 themed dinner in London with Barbara Broccoli in virtual attendance! And Daniel Craig, while not quite there himself, did send along a signed limited edition 007 Omega oyster watch for the auction! This event marked the beginning of the way back for this charity from a difficult 2 years but which has also been instructive in how virtual charity giving and support can really work!

We talked to Jo Wright, Chair of the Trustees for Back Up, who has herself had a spinal cord injury.

In January 2020 we had the pleasure of engaging a new CEO and just a month later we could see the pandemic coming. We were slightly ahead of the curve, managing to squeeze in one of our big fundraisers ‘Fashion Front Row’ in March 2020. Then as lockdown came closer, the team started to come up with virtual events.

Reaching out to those isolated by a spinal cord injury (SCI) was foremost in our minds and we created the Back Up lounge via Zoom which met twice a week initially. This offered those with SCI to chat with others and we created break out rooms so that people could have a chance to chat in a smaller and more relaxed space. We believe in helping everyone who has been affected by a SCI and this includes the families of those injured. So we had special Back Up lounges for children too!

We also managed to run courses on wheelchair skills for instance, on an App although it was very difficult to replace the real life events themselves. But it was a start and the Back Up team were so versatile in moving as much as they reasonably could into a virtual environment.
As with so many charities raising money was a challenge but Back Up met this challenge with its usual positivity. The Spinal Circuit virtually linked all the spinal cord injury centres in the UK, a distance of 1799km, and asked people to contribute to wheel, cycle or walk that distance in March 2020. Corporate teams ended up getting competitive over distance and sponsorship and it became a resounding success returning in 2021 and again in 2022 –  if you would like to take part it’s not too late:

But the main concern during the pandemic was losing touch with people isolated in hospital with a SCI. Jo says

One of the major problems we faced was not being able to get into hospitals and meet people who had just had a SCI and who didn’t know about us. It can be a dark time for people and Back Up is there to give hope and positivity in those crucial early days and we just could not be there. Whilst we could mentor those we had details of over the phone, there were so many others we just could not access and this remains a concern today – that in the last two years we have been unable to contact and help people who may really need us.

Back Up continue to meet the challenge and are now starting to resume more hands on activities, hoping to meet those who have had an SCI in the last two years and be there for them as they have been for so many.
Read more about ‘Back up’ by clicking here (


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