Real lives – co-pro stories

A highlight of the recent (and excellent) Community Currencies conference hosted by Spice was the number of presentations by citizens. One of those presentations was by Derek Hermann – an inspirational young man whose story demonstrates both the limitations of a purely medical model of health, and the powerful connection between wellbeing and the opportunity to make a contribution to the lives of others. Here’s his story, as he stood up to tell it on stage…
I started my sports career at a young age as a way of dealing with asthma. I trained in athletics and swimming, going onto become the youngest ever inductee to the Welsh Athletics Hall of Fame. By the age of 17 I was at Commonwealth Games standard and competing internationally for Wales. I was being groomed to be an Olympian, training every day. Sport was my life.
Then in 2000, while competing for Wales, an accident resulted in me breaking my back in numerous places and damaging my spinal chord. At 19 my career was over and I was told I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30. I was not expected to walk again.
I used to be known as Big Del or Del Diesel; I was strong and helped others. After the accident I was no longer able to do the things I’d done before, I became isolated, lonely and lifeless. It felt like I was hollow.
For 10 years I shut the door on the world and gave up on life. My home became my prison. I don’t know how my family coped. I ended up on anti psychosis medication because things got so bad. At one point I was taking over 80 tablets a day and morphine patches. I picked out my wall to drive in to…my body and mind were destroyed,
Things began to change when I met Rachel (a localities worker with Spice). She told me about some developments in my local community and asked for my help. I started to get involved in the community, to make suggestions about how things could be improved. Then I found out about the Street Buddy community ambassador training and attended. That was the big shove I needed to start doing things again. The spark has been ignited; I want to make the community a better place for my kids and everyone else within it.
I’m a rock for my family now. Last year I couldn’t get out of the chair, 12 months ago I didn’t have a single friend. Life has turned a corner, I am coming out of myself again and slowly getting back to the person I was before. I have a purpose and I can help others, something that I did before my injury. I can be involved in my local community, I am valuable. I am still in constant pain but now I have a purpose, I’ve got something to live for. It’s hard yes, but I can finally do things again and regarding the tablets I’ve reduced from 80 per day to 3 per day.
It’s my mind that has changed, having a purpose and living a life.

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