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On 19th February 2008, Phil was injured on operational duty and sustained injuries to his heart, ribs and catastrophic damage to his spinal cord. The initial motivation to move forward came from the family and friends who were there at his side.
Following surgery and recuperation at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, and later at the Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre, his Spinal Cord Injury improved from a T12/L1 motor complete injury to an incomplete and sensory incomplete injury.
He said “I owe my mobility and ability to walk again to my surgeon, Jan Lehovsky, and the tremendous team at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital under the leadership of Dr Angela Gall. I am so fortunate and know how lucky I am to live the life I have”.
Phil was dependent on a wheelchair for a year and after standing and learning to walk again, went from crutches to using one walking stick. Although his mobility has shown some improvement, he is unable to control his body temperature due to nerve damage and has no bladder or bowel function.
Whilst these can be sensitive medical issues, he openly discusses his own problems in order to break down the barriers that young people with similar challenges face. He uses his own personal experience of psychological trauma and depression to promote a wider understanding of mental health issues, particularly in young people.
Just over a year after sustaining his injuries, Phil embarked upon a journey to rebuild his life by setting himself a series of extreme challenges to raise £1million for wounded service personnel. His actions would inspire millions. Within a six-
In 2010, Phil and Kate Silverton completed a Three Peaks Challenge for Sport Relief with a support team including Alastair Humphreys and Andy Kirkpatrick. They were joined on Mount Snowdon by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Clive Woodward. The challenge was the focus of the BBC Documentary A Major Mountain to Climb. He also took part in the 2010 London Marathon, this time walking each mile with a young person from a different charity, raising money and awareness for 26 charities. He completed the marathon in his new target time of 26 hours.
Following these achievements, Phil became a Patron or Ambassador to 17 charities; all of whom support young people living with disabilities, face specific medical needs or who live in deprivation.
Whilst researching how he could assist charities who supported young people facing trauma and adversity, Phil met over 60 charities in 2010 (that partnered with him) who all believed in the need for a residential centre where they could refer their young people to assist them in regaining their self-
To meet young people facing trauma throughout the United Kingdom, Phil walked 2012 miles throughout every county of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2012. Whilst doing so, he raise awareness of the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) and visited hundreds of charities, schools, colleges and universities. He was hosted each day by either a voluntary youth organisation, charity, school, college or university. He walked in every county of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland as well as Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and the Isle of Man, meeting tens of thousands of young people throughout the challenge.
The 2012 Challenge equated to 310 marathon distances in 331 days. Dr. Angela Gall, the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Consultant at the London Spinal Injury Centre, said:
“As for his 2012 mile walk, this needs to be put into context with his spinal cord injury. Walking 2012 miles throughout 2012 was an enormous challenge. The literature (physiological cost index) estimates the energy Phil uses when walking is 3 to 4 times that of someone without a spinal cord injury. This means that walking for Phil is very effortful, he uses a lot of energy and puts additional stress on his musculoskeletal system. 8 to 10 miles a day is a fantastic achievement and required a great deal of effort and determination. Phil was walking an equivalent of a marathon distance effort a day”.
In 2015, six years after completing the London Marathon in a punishing 14 days Phil set out to complete a marathon distance through the City of London in an incredible 14 hours. The training for this challenge took over a year and he was supported by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the University of Chichester. The Sport Scientists, together with nutritionists and the NHS assisted Phil to prepare for the marathon challenge. During the year he battled with medical difficulties which resulted in significant muscle and weight loss due to internal stomach issues.
Phil’s fundraising and charity support has not only led to national recognition, but numerous awards. He has received accolades including Fundraiser of the Year at the Pride of Britain Awards and the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Whilst raising millions of pounds for charity and inspiring millions, the aim of each of these arduous physical endeavours has been to raise positive awareness or funding for young people who face adversity in their lives.
Today, he dedicates all his time to enthusing and supporting young people; particularly those struggling with trauma. He does so through BRIT and his roles as an Ambassador or Patron to charities including The Prince’s Trust, NSPCC, UK Scouting Association and Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
In 2012, Phil was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Chichester. In 2014, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Psychological Trauma from the University of Chester.