Dr Rachel James never thought she would get back on a bicycle, after surviving a horrific collision with a National Express Coach on her cycle home from work that left her with 16 fractures and several other injuries.
But five years later, despite being “petrified”, she plucked up the courage, and got on the saddle again, after securing a spot in the iconic London to Brighton charity bike ride, to raise funds for a cause close to her heart.
“Last week I managed to cycle to work for the first time since the incident. As my bike was left at the scene I had to buy a new one and cycling it home from the bike shop just a mile or so from my home was so very scary, but I also really enjoyed the freedom cycling brings. I knew I just had to bite the bullet and cycle in to work to see whether I could actually do it again,” said Rachel, who is the Clinical Services Director at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Recovering from the accident took over two years, with Rachel undergoing two operations and plenty of physiotherapy. “Emotionally, I think it has changed me, and those close to me, forever” she said.
But Rachel wanted to do her part to raise funds for the Tavistock and Portman Charity, so they could offer more bursaries and mentoring to under-represented students from a range of backgrounds including Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups, economic disadvantage, and the Armed Forces Community
“I wouldn’t have applied to ride if we had all the places filled, but given it is a cause close to my heart I wouldn’t have felt happy leaving places empty so that is what led to me considering it. My partner offered to join me on the ride for moral support and that helped me make the decision to go for it,” said Rachel.
Every year over 4,000 riders join in Europe’s oldest charity bike ride along a 54-mile route from the capital to the beach. Rachel is one of nine members of staff from the trust who will be riding to raise funds for the Tavistock and Portman Charity.
She said signing up to the bike ride has enabled her to address a “huge and personal challenge”, while also making a difference to others’ lives.
“More than ever we know that there are huge inequalities in access to education, which impacts all aspects of our personal and professional lives. I do believe that ensuring high quality education and training is accessible is fundamental to enabling a workforce that is representative of the population.
“Actions really can speak louder than words and I guess that in a very small way I am taking a concrete step to genuinely live my values and taking some very small, but yet for me very brave steps, in ensuring social justice and the empowerment of others.”
Over the past three years, the Trust Charity has funded more than 100k in bursaries to 26 students from under-represented backgrounds, to study various courses.
The Trust is a well-reputed education and training provider, offering hundreds of courses, including university-accredited post-qualification and doctoral programmes.
Louise Lyon, chair of the Charity said: “As a result of bequests from previous generations of service users and practitioners – whose lives and own practice have been enriched by training at the Trust – the charity is delighted to help widen access to today’s students.”