Andy Richardson’s life changed forever the night he broke his neck - but his sense of humour remains firmly intact.
The 33-year-old toppled down stairs in his home four years ago, suffering severe injuries to his spine which will keep him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“I’ve got a t-shirt made up with the words ‘Benefit Cheat’ on it,” he grinned.
It was this sense of humour coupled with his never-say-die spirit and gift of the gab which brought Andy to the attention of Spinal Injuries Scotland - a charity which helped him through the darkest time of his life.
“I eventually became a peer support volunteer, but I had been doing it unofficially with patients and I think they saw I was good at it. I just tell people it does get better and things become easier to manage.
“Everyone thinks their life is over, but you find ways of coping.”
Andy had to find a way to cope after he found himself crumpled at the bottom of the staircase of his home in Clarinda Avenue, Camelon, on November 17, 2007.
He said: “I was reaching back to turn off the bathroom light when my knee just gave way and I fell - I was fighting for the bannister all the way down. I hit the stairs as I fell and I felt the crack.
“I didn’t know how serious it was. My wife and my pal were in the house and they asked me if I was okay, I said just give me a minute - then I realised I couldn’t move.”
Andy was rushed to Stirling Royal Infirmary and then to the spinal injuries unit at Glasgow’s Southern General.
“I could only talk and blink when they brought me in at first. Slowly and surely though I began to get feeling back into my arms and they started teaching me to feed myself and use my hands in different ways.
“One of the worst things about it was I couldn’t scratch my own head - if I got an itch I had to get a nurse to scratch it for me.”
After a year of hard work and rehabilitation it was time to come home.
“I did take a wee dip when I first got home from hospital. I had been in there with people who were all in the same boat as me - then when I got out into the big wide world I felt like the only one in it.
“I was only down for about two or three weeks though - you’ve got to drag yourself up again and get on with it.” And Andy is doing just that.
Married to Judy for eight years, Andy and his wife haven’t ruled out the possibility of having children in the future.
Thanks to his electric wheelchair and a myriad of gadgets in his house at John O’Hara Court, Camelon, Andy has some degree of independence, although he still requires carers to drop in during the day to help with various tasks which he cannot manage himself.
“Judy has been trained in every aspect of my care, but I took the decision early on after the accident she would be my wife, not my carer.”
Andy now travels through to Glasgow every Thursday to support patients and their families at the Southern General’s spinal injuries unit.
“You have to talk to the relatives as well because the whole family is affected by something like this - my wife had to watch me try to cope with things and so did my mum and dad.”
He has also given a number of talks at schools in the area.
“My sense of humour is not really PC. It’s a coping mechanism I suppose, but a lot of people take themselves too seriously. My accident happened when Italy stopped Scotland qualifying for Euro 2008.
“So I blame the Italians for what happened to me.”
A fundraising event, organised by family and friends and held in the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel earlier this year raised £1700 for the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Southern General Hospital.
Andy said: “We got a good deal at Argos and managed to get nine televisions for the ward. Things are quite regimented in there as people work at their rehabilitation so it’s good to have something that shows you what’s going on in the outside world.”