I’ll never be normal again. That’s just the truth. 

These are not the words you would expect to hear from a top sportsman, but they are words which ring true in my own inner narrative. 

They come from Mose Masoe, the former Samoa international rugby player. They took me back to my time in the National Spinal Hospital and the people I met there and how they adjusted to this new life. 

No one planned to be there or would choose to be there, but the hard reality of this injury is it can happen to anyone any time.

At the start of 2020, before Covid had hit the world, Masoe was already facing one of life’s biggest challenges. 

The Rugby League player - standing 192cm tall and weighing 120kg - found himself facing life as a tetraplegic. 

He was tackled in a friendly match that left him with a spinal cord injury. 

As an athlete you immediately think your career is over. As you go through the acute stages of this injury, your mind is not fully processed what has happened.

What you don’t fully know yet is that your whole life has changed.

Not only do you lose your athletic career - which forms a big part of your identity, you lose your independence too.

I have spoken a lot about losing your independence after a spinal injury and how it doesn’t just affect you, but impacts everyone around you. 

This was our biggest challenge in the spinal hospital, trying to find some level of independence.

When people look at someone with a spinal cord injury, they mostly just see the outside.

However there are a lot of internal things going on that leave you as the injured person feeling pretty down and frustrated.

Mose's Instagram feed is one of inspiration, especially the video of him taking a few steps in his kitchen as his daughter moves his walking frame further away from him. 

For anyone with a spinal injury, that transition from hospital to home is a very daunting one. 

You have mixed emotions of fear, excitement and the reality is that you don’t just wake up and start moving again.

Even today I still have recurring dreams of moving only to wake up to find it was only a dream, but as an athlete you do tend to lean into challenges and this is clear with Mose. 

We share the same tetraplegic diagnosis and like me he was very positive to the outside world, but this is hard to keep up, and we all know even without an injury you can't be positive every day.

When you’re injured, sometimes you feel like you have to put this front on, to SHOW strength.

But this becomes tiring. 

Sometimes sharing your vulnerability can be the best therapy you do. It had taken me four years to feel comfortable to talk about the real impact of having a spinal injury.

As a tetraplegic, we have the possibility of walking so it’s easy to show positive videos of us taking those steps, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

As Masoe says the underlying issues are the ones that take a toll on your mind.

People are often surprised when I explain about bowel issues as a tetraplegic, as it's something that most people wouldn’t think of. 

The truth is it causes me more stress and anxiety than most other issues caused by the injury.

This is even to the point I get scared about going to the bathroom. 

Masoe also explains that his wife has to manually help with his bowel care now.

I can empathise with this as you don’t even want to leave home if you aren't taking care of that. 

Each injury is different and we are all left with a varying level of function.

I have been a bit more luckier with bladder side of things as I still have slight control but for Mose a normal night in bed sees him catheterising himself three to four times a night to stop the risk of urine getting stuck and causing kidney failure.

It is mind boggling on how important this central nervous system is to everyday life.

Any slight damage has a massive impact on life, although it is something most people will never think about unless injured. 

I remember a psychologist saying to me “David prepare for life in a way that you ask three questions ...”

They were:

1. What’s the best case scenario? 

2. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

3. What’s probably going to happen?

At the time I didn’t see value in this but I think both Masoe and I would agree now that thinking about this was a worthwhile exercise. It allows you to have plans in place should the worst come to pass.

I saw all this first hand in Stoke Mandivile - those who had stuff in place to those who didn’t. 

I was very lucky the sport looked after me, but this was only a short term thing. 

As long as I am an athlete there is support but then what? 

Mose finds himself in a situation with his contract running out soon and with a family to support. Life isn't going to be easy for him.

So this week I leave you with a lesson both Masoe and I would share with you.

Is your Plan A, B and C in place should the worst happen?