A Newton Aycliffe student who suffered life-changing disabilities after a stroke four years ago is flying to the Netherlands this week to support competitors at the Invictus Games.
Simon Peacock has spoken of his delight after being selected from more than 350 international applicants to volunteer at the international sporting event at The Hague, opening this Saturday.
The Invictus Games uses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans.
Simon, 37, applied to volunteer as a result of his own experience, having worked hard on his rehabilitation after suffering several transient ischaemic attacks before a major stroke at the University Hospital of North Durham in June 2018.
He explained: “I initially lost the entire use of my whole right side; during the first three days there were no signs of movement. I was sent to the rehabilitation ward at Bishop Auckland Hospital and the next day I had my first physio session.
“With lots of grit and determination they had me walking with a Zimmer frame; I spent six weeks in hospital which wasn’t bad as got to see the entire world cup (I am a huge football fan!) Fast forward four years and I now walk aided with a walking stick.
“My right arm and hand still have some paralysis; I don’t have much control over my fingers so fine motor skills can be tough for me now. I was right-handed so have learnt to write again but with my left hand, which is slow and time consuming. My stroke also effects my fatigue as well so I’m quite limited as to what I can do as I do unfortunately get tired quite easily.”
Simon was encouraged to apply for the volunteering opportunity by tutors at Bishop Auckland College, where he is a part-time Level 3 Criminology student.
Flying out to The Hague on Wednesday, he will be working shifts on the ticket collection desk at the cycle track and is also supporting the customer service team at the Games.
He said: “I’m over the moon to be part of such an event, and cannot wait to get out there, get my uniform and meet as many people I can. My biggest motivation for volunteering at this amazing event is that since my stroke I have suffered life-changing disabilities and, in many ways, I can relate to some of these amazing athletes. If I can go and aid this event taking place by my volunteering my time, then I absolutely will.”
Simon said he is also looking to enjoy some sightseeing during his trip: “I have three days spare so I definitely want to visit Anne Frank’s house. The city of The Hague itself looks amazing – I would like to get to know some of the local people and check out some recommendations from them too and do some exploring while I’m there.
“Bishop Auckland College has been amazing in supporting me, not only for this superb volunteering experience at the Invictus Games, but throughout my course. I would recommend the college to anyone and once I complete my Level 3 Criminology, I fully intend to go on to study the Higher Education degree in this subject here too.”
Katy Dixon, course coordinator for HND Public Services & Criminology, added: “We are very proud of Simon and how far he has progressed with his own rehabilitation since his life-changing stroke. We’re sure he will have an inspirational trip which will only increase his determination to succeed.”