Nigel Barber was 16 years old and working as an electrician’s apprentice when a sliding door came off its track and fell on him, breaking his neck.
Barber spent the next year in the hospital, learning how to adjust to his new life as a paraplegic.
“The year in the hospital was fine,” he says, because everything was made to be accessible. The real struggle began when he returned home.
“You come home to Devon, you’ve got hills, you’ve got no accessible buses,” he explains.
Stuck in his parents’ house and not really going anywhere, “just looking at the same four walls,” Barber tried to commit suicide. Later, having grown thankful for failing in this endeavor, he knew he needed to find something to do and a new way to think about his circumstances.
“You can sit there and mope, which I will admit I did for a few years, but then you get to the point where you need to do something,” he says.
Martin Uttley, owner and head coach at CrossFit Pi, says: “When he first came through the door, I think it was exciting for us in that we get to use our methodology for really what it’s there for. … The methodology really is there to enable people to enjoy fitness from whatever background. That is the bottom line.”
When Barber first joined CrossFit Pi, he sometimes would struggle even to sit up. But over time, the workouts strengthened his core and helped with that. He also discovered his spine had become straighter.
Fellow CrossFit Pi member Joanna Simms says: “Whether you’re disabled or you’re able-bodied, it’s all about how you’re treated when you come in.”
Barber now feels less alone and like he’s part of a team because of the community at CrossFit Pi.
“They’re there when you’re having ups, they’re there when you’re having downs, and … outside of the box. … This is a second family,” he says.