We speak to Maisie Graham, nominee for the SIA’s Rebuilding Lives Awards 2019

Maisie, aged 19 from Barnsley, is one of only three young spinal cord injured people nominated for the Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at its Rebuilding Lives Award 2019.

Masie was paralysed at the age of 15 from just below her chest after developing a virus called Transverse Myelitis. The condition causes the immune system to attack and damage the spinal cord. Masie was given support from the spinal injuries charity, Back-Up Trust and is now a youth adviser for the charity, as well as a wheelchair skills trainer and a group leader and mentor for people who require help in adapting to their situation.

She is already an award winner after being presented with a prestigious Diana Award in 2017.

Birchall Blackburn Law is sponsoring the SIA’s Young Person of the Year Award, so we caught up with passionate art student, Maisie for a Q and A session ahead of the awards this month (July 2019)…

Maisie Graham Young Person of the Year Award nominee SIA


Why did you decide to become a Back-Up’s youth advisor, mentor and wheelchair skills trainer?

I’m giving back to the charity that helped me most when I was at my lowest. I have registered how much they help people and I want to be a part of that.

Can you tell us why mentors, advisors and wheelchair skills trainers are so important to the SCI community?

When you are put into a situation you are not familiar with its greatly appreciated to be able to relate to others so you can gain knowledge and experience, and I feel that those roles do that.

You used to play rugby three times a week, and now you ski, play basketball, canoe and kayak! How important is sport to you and what do you get from it?

After my injury I found it incredibly important for me to not have the attitude of being unable to do certain things. The sports I do help me to be more active and it’s nice to recognise that I can still do the things I loved before but just finding ways around it and do it slightly different.

Is there anyone that you would consider a role model?

To me I think that everyone who has been through any negative situation and who chose to overcome those situations, are role models in my eyes.

Is there a rule or motto that you live by?

Make the best of your situation.

What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with a spinal cord injury?

Never feel alone, get in contact with spinal injury charities and people in similar situations. You will grow in confidence and independence in more ways than you would have before. There will always be someone that can relate to you and it’s the people you can connect, not tutorials or information online, but the people who can help give tips and lessons in past experiences.

If you could change anything about the world around you, what would it be?

That some people be more open minded about situations and information they haven’t come across before.

You seem to have done some really amazing things – do you have a particular highlight?

My highlight has been the fact that I have overcome my injury and grown in confidence with the help of Back-Up.

What would you say your greatest achievement has been so far?

Winning a Diana Award and helping the people of the SCI community as much as I can.

What does the work of organisations like the Back-Up Trust and SIA mean to you?

Absolutely amazing work from both organisations. I was in a really dark place when Back-Up reached out to me and helped me through it. It’s not just the courses that help you gain confidence but the people you connect with on those courses. Incredibly life changing experiences, knowledge and people.

What does it feel like, being nominated for a Young Person of the Year Award at the SIA’s Rebuilding Lives Awards?

It honestly means so much to me, having gained so much from both organisations, being nominated for an award is above and beyond.

You’re a keen traveller, what has been your favourite holiday destination and why? Where are you heading next?

When I went to Belgium. It was my first holiday since my injury and I went with my two best friends. It made me realise that anything is possible and really helped me gain the independence and positivity I needed at the time to push me further. I am going to France for five weeks this summer going travelling and camping in several destinations.

What’s your favourite film(s)?

Captain Fantastic.

Do you get a chance to read and can you recommend a good book?

I love reading I easily go through three books a month. An incredible book I read recently is called the Time Travellers Wife.

Can you recommend a TV boxset?

Game of Thrones.

Who do you listen to when it comes to music?

I listen to all genres but my favourites are Foo Fighters, Fleetwood Mac and Bob Marley.

Favourite food?

Vietnamese styled vegetable soup.

We believe you’re currently studying hard? If so can you tell us what you’re studying, where and why you chose that subject(s)?

I am starting a fine art course at Nottingham Trent University in September. I have never been good at expressing my feelings verbally and art form is a way for me to do that.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Ultimately create art and travel the world.


The Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at the Rebuilding Lives Award 2019 will be announced on July 11. The high profile awards will be attended by HRH The Princess Royal and are held at the home of Williams Racing in Oxfordshire.

The Young Person of the Year Award is presented to a spinal cord injured person aged 25 or under, who has provided an outstanding level of contribution to the UK’s spinal cord injury (SCI) community and their SCI peers.

The SIA is the leading national user-led charity for spinal cord injured (SCI) people. Being user led, the charity understands the everyday needs of living with SCI. They help meet those needs by providing key services to share information and experiences, and to campaign for change ensuring each person can lead a full and active life. To find out more about the amazing work of the SIA go to spinal.co.uk or call 0845 678 6633.