One such individual is former frontline army medic, Nerys Pearce. Nerys, 39, lives in Ascot, Berkshire. She volunteers across a range of charities including a vaccination centre in Salisbury.
What makes Nerys participation in motorsports inspirational is she is paralysed from the chest down.
In 2008, Nerys was involved in an accident when she was riding what she describes as her ‘sensible’ motorbike. A car positioned behind a bus stop reversed off the kerb, taking Nerys and her bike underneath.
Nerys suffered a dislocated shoulder and her legs were crushed as well as severe nerve damage and pain. Two years after the accident, Nerys underwent surgery with the natural hope that her mobility and pain level would improve. Unfortunately, Nerys did not react well to the surgery and the outcome was Nerys is paralysed from the chest down.
‘To be honest, I found it incredibly difficult just to put a sentence together’, explains Nerys. ‘I found it so challenging to get up, continue my day – the simplest of tasks were an uphill battle’. Nerys spent months in and out of hospital due to, kidney, bladder and bowel infections. This period was particularly gruelling both physically and mentally.
The pivotal moment for Nerys was when the charity Blesma contacted her in 2014. ‘A family member had contacted them and the day they arrived at my house, my life changed. They supported me practically, emotionally and advised me regarding financial matters’.
Significantly, within a year of their first visit, Blesma introduced Nerys to adaptive sports like sit skiing and hand cycling. For someone who had always been into adventure sports, this new avenue of sporting opportunities was hugely important. It led to an important introduction.
‘Dave from Team Brit (an all disabled racing team) noticed my crazy achievements on Facebook. We arranged to meet and talk’.
This started an amazing journey. She felt her life had been given back. For Nerys, being the only female driver in the team is personally significant but as far as the team goes, she emphatically wants to be seen and treated exactly the same. ‘We are all very different yet all the same’, says Nerys. ‘Our motto is Believe and Achieve which really encapsulates our ideals and goals’. She confirms that the team are all ‘insanely competitive’. Nerys has experience of unique and challenging personal situations. Her mother was born blind and has lived her life to the full and is currently working for the prison service.
Dr Victor Thompson, Clinical Sports Psychologist states that ‘Following a life-changing injury, such as a spinal injury, life is going to become full of different challenges. Sport might be the last thing on people’s minds in the months and first few years after injury, but it can offer much to the individual. Sport offers us all an opportunity to get out the front door, to meet likeminded people, to train for a goal, to get the endorphin high of engaging in intense exercise, and more. It gives us more reason to look after our body, to eat better, drink less, and sleep better. It takes us away from life’s stresses and challenges.
Following a paralysing accident, these features and benefits of sport are perhaps even more valuable and important for the person. If the person was active and sporty before such an accident, then by engaging in sport once more helps them to experience what was good for them before. It helps them to feel like their usual self, being active and competitive like before. For these sporty types, if they drop sport post-injury, they will also lose all the things that sport previously gave them and with it one important part of their identity. Without their sport, there is a risk that they will have more time to ruminate on their injury and their limitations, which won’t help their mental health.
In short, sport is a great enabler, and this is probably most true and helpful for those with disabilities’.
Throughout this whole experience, Nerys never had feelings of anger. For many, this seems not only incredibly admirable but astonishing given the circumstances of the accident but as Nerys states ‘nobody is perfect. Although it happened to me, it could easily have been someone else who was crashed into. I certainly know my life and actions have not all been perfect – just human like everybody else’. This enlightened, measured way of looking at this life threatening accident is a mark of how Nerys approaches her life. She is determined and self motivated – qualities that have proved vital in her recovery and her ambitions as a motorsport competitor.
Another aspect of her participation is Nerys believes women are definitely underrepresented in competitive sports in general and motorsports in particular.
For those who have had their lives significantly changed by an accident or an injury, the love and support of family is immeasurably important. All lives are impacted differently but the one aspect of recovery is the strength given by those closest to them.
Nerys has absolutely no doubt that her younger sister, mum and dad were pivotal in helping her to the point she has now reached. ‘My family has been phenomenal since my accident both practically and mentally. Always there for me even during really dark times. They also get behind all my crazy plans, number one amazing cheering squad’.
Information about Team BRIT:
Team BRIT aims to be the first British all-disabled team to race in the Le Mans 24 Hour. Through its racing academy, it supports people with physical and psychological challenges in accessing motorsport. Its world-leading hand control technology enables disabled drivers to race on equal terms with able-bodied competitors.
Nerys Pearce fundraising page:
For more information visit:
Dr Victor Thompson: