‘I’ve rebuilt my life after injury’
I’ve learned that if you sit still you learn nothing
Kelda Wood, 45, lives in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. She is founder of the charity Climbing out, which helps young people facing life-changing injury and illness.
When people ask me what’s the key to confidence in life, I say “acceptance”. you can’t find confidence until you truly accept yourself for who you are. In my case – and for anyone who suffers a life-changing injury – that means the person you are physically, right now.
I wanted to be an equestrian from the age of three. I don’t know where this came from – neither of my parents were sporty, or horsey. However my dream was to be an olympic eventer. I painted the olympic rings on my bedroom wall, and would stand on stiles in the field pretending I was on the medal podium. It was my sole focus. When the horse I was working with was killed in an accident with a lorry, I altered my dreams and went into racing, determined to become a female jockey.
but one day when I was 28, I was haying the horses when a tonne of bale fell on my head. It compressed my whole body into the cement floor, shattering the bottom of my leg. the doctors managed to save my leg, but there was no blood supply to the bone. I had no movement in my ankle – my dreams of competing as a top-level jockey were over. I couldn’t run, jump or walk up and down steps. sport had been such a huge part of my life – I lost all my self-belief and my confidence levels tumbled.
In 2010, determined to do something adventurous again, I joined a group climbing Kilimanjaro. It was awful – I went so slowly and kept falling over. I thought everyone was laughing at me and felt bad for holding them back. but afterwards people kept saying that watching me had inspired them to keep going. I thought, “I need to change my attitude, think about what I can do, rather than what I can’t.”
I returned home and retrained as an outdoor instructor. but it was a phone call from a friend that changed the course of my life – he’d been working with someone who was about to commit suicide because he couldn’t accept his injury. talking to him showed me I could use my experiences to help others, and so I came up with the idea for Climbing out. We run five-day outdoor programmes to help children who have life-altering injuries and illnesses.
In 2017, I was selected as part of an adaptive team climbing the highest peak in south america. People said it wouldn’t be possible but I adapted my crutches with ice screws and snow baskets. I made it to the summit, and while sitting there I had a real moment of absolute contentment with the person I am. I was finally at peace with my injury and knew I loved my leg, even with its challenges, as it was a part of me.
Now I’m ready to raise awareness of the physical trauma others face. on 12 December I will start an atlantic row as part of the talisker Challenge – known as the “world’s toughest row” – covering more than 3,000 miles. It will mean three months at sea but I’m rowing for a different young person each day, which is all the encouragement I’ll need to keep me going.
What I’ve learnt from my injury is that if you sit still, you learn nothing and go nowhere. It was only when I made the effort to physically move forward that I mentally did the same – and I truly bounced back. To donate, visit justgiving.com/ fundraising/rowtoraise w&h
In december, Kelda will be solo rowing the atlantic to support young people facing trauma