Creating a lasting legacy for future paralympians

Creating a lasting legacy for future paralympians

Mike Mackenzie, pictured diving in a wheelchair as part of a transport challenge

Riding an ostrich

First published in News

AN AID worker who turned adventurer after he was left paralysed by a car accident in Bosnia is helping create a paralympic legacy.

On Tuesday, October 30, Mike Mackenzie, 63, will launch a £3,000 appeal to buy equipment to help young or newly disabled people change their lives through sport.

Bicester Rotary Club has pledged to raise money in aid of charity WheelPower, based at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, in Aylesbury.

Mr Mackenzie, who carried the Paralympic torch on its final leg, said: “One of the things the Paralympics has done is break down barriers and had an astonishing effect on people’s attitude towards disabled people. I think grassroots support for disabled sport is vital for future Paralympics.”

Liz Yardley, of Bicester Rotary Club said: “We think this is a truly excellent way of ensuring a meaningful 2012 legacy.”

Mr Mackenzie’s own life was changed forever when, aged 44, he was run over in Bosnia while working as a director of operations for Scottish European Aid. He was treated at Stoke Mandeville’s spinal unit.

The former wine merchant, from Piddington, near Thame, was airlifted to the UK and told the devastating news he had broken his back and was paralysed from the chest down.

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He had also lost one of his legs and later lost the other due to complications. His two colleagues were killed in the incident.

The father-of-three spent 15 months at Stoke Mandeville, and made a brief return to Bosnia.

Following his accident he has taken on a host of adventure challenges.

Since 1996, Mr Mackenzie has learned to ski, taken part in wheelchair relays around the UK and from Paris to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, driven rally cars in Moscow and helped raise £500,000 for charity when he and two blind people circumnavigated the globe visiting 15 countries in 93 days using 94 modes of transport.

Among them was a wheelchair – underwater – an ostrich, a Harley Davidson motorbike, a cardboard boat, a tank and a hot air balloon, which crash-landed.

Mr Mackenzie also set up several spinal charities and the Poppa Guttmann Trust, to mark the life of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the pioneering doctor who developed treatment for spinal injuries and founded the Paralympic Games.

Mr Mackenzie, who plans to marry fiancee Sandy Johnston in March, said: “When you discover what’s happened to you, that you are paralysed for life, the brain either says I can’t cope with this, or I better get on with it.

“I was lucky my brain said ‘let’s get on with it’ and as a result I’ve had a great time.

“I think the big message is, if you want to do something, you should just get out and do it. The only limits in your life are those you accept yourself.”

  • Mr Mackenzie will speak about Dr Guttman, the work of Stoke Mandeville and his own experiences on Tuesday, October 30, at 7pm, at the Littlebury Hotel, Bicester. For tickets, which include supper, call 01869 249565.

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