From education to employment

Student supports Invictus Games after life-changing stroke

A Newton Aycliffe student who suffered life-changing disabilities after a stroke four years
ago is flying to the Netherlands this week to support competitors at the Invictus Games.

Simon Peacock has spoken of his delight after being selected from more than 350 international
applicants to volunteer at the international sporting event at The Hague, opening this Saturday.

The Invictus Games uses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate
a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both
serving and veterans.

Simon, 37, applied to volunteer as a result of his own experience, having worked hard on his
rehabilitation after suffering several transient ischaemic attacks before a major stroke at the
University Hospital of North Durham in June 2018.

He explained: “I initially lost the entire use of my whole right side; during the first three days there
were no signs of movement. I was sent to the rehabilitation ward at Bishop Auckland Hospital and
the next day I had my first physio session.

“With lots of grit and determination they had me walking with a Zimmer frame; I spent six weeks in
hospital which wasn’t bad as got to see the entire world cup (I am a huge football fan!) Fast forward
four years and I now walk aided with a walking stick.

“My right arm and hand still have some paralysis; I don’t have much control over my fingers so fine
motor skills can be tough for me now. I was right-handed so have learnt to write again but with my
left hand, which is slow and time consuming. My stroke also effects my fatigue as well so I’m quite limited as to what I can do as I do unfortunately get tired quite easily.”

Simon was encouraged to apply for the volunteering opportunity by tutors at Bishop Auckland College,
where he is a part-time Level 3 Criminology student. Flying out to The Hague on Wednesday, he will
be working shifts on the ticket collection desk at the cycle track and is also supporting the customer
service team at the Games.

He said: “I’m over the moon to be part of such an event, and cannot wait to get out there, get my
uniform and meet as many people I can. My biggest motivation for volunteering at this amazing event
is that since my stroke I have suffered life-changing disabilities and, in many ways, I can relate to
some of these amazing athletes. If I can go and aid this event taking place by my volunteering my
time, then I absolutely will.”

Simon said he is also looking to enjoy some sightseeing during his trip: “I have three days spare so
I definitely want to visit Anne Frank’s house. The city of The Hague itself looks amazing – I would like
to get to know some of the local people and check out some recommendations from them too and do
some exploring while I’m there.

“Bishop Auckland College has been amazing in supporting me, not only for this superb volunteering
experience at the Invictus Games, but throughout my course. I would recommend the college to
anyone and once I complete my Level 3 Criminology, I fully intend to go on to study the Higher
Education degree in this subject here too.”

Katy Dixon, Course Coordinator for HND Public Services & Criminology, added: “We are very proud
of Simon and how far he has progressed with his own rehabilitation since his life-changing stroke.
We’re sure he will have an inspirational trip which will only increase his determination to succeed.”

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