22 February 2017

Student Volunteering Week - Kate's story

Interested in volunteering? Please email volunteer@rbli.co.uk

Kate has been a keen cyclist all her life. Her passion and commitment to the sport led to her compete in 2014’s Time Trial Series, The Best British All-rounder in which she finished an impressive 10th place. Encouraged by her success, she enlisted the help of a professional coach with the ambition of finishing within the top six. 

With her new coach along with her ambitious goal, Kate undertook an intensive training course in Tenerife, only to be faced with the unimaginable – a life-changing accident. 

Because of the damage to her memory, Kate has had to rely on the testimony of others to piece together the events that led to her accident. She said: “I now know we were on a cycling training week. Although I wasn’t training at the time of my accident, I was on my bike. I’m told I wasn’t going fast at all. 

“The others heard a terrible crash. They looked around knowing I was behind them to see me unconscious on the floor. Initially, I wasn’t completely out but eventually I had stopped breathing. I was told some time later I was resuscitated by local paramedics.”

Kate spent the following weeks on a ventilator which kept her alive. “They told my family that I may die – or, at least, that it was unlikely I would ever regain consciousness,” she said. 

Before the accident, Kate’s career had gone from strength to strength and after joining Heart of Kent Hospice not long after it opened in 1991 as nurse on the ward she later returned as Clinical Manager in the Inpatient Unit, before being appointed Chief Executive in 2007. Kate’s involvement had been a key influence in the development of the Hospice throughout the years.

Due to the nature of the injuries Kate had sustained in the cycling accident, it was unlikely she would ever resume her position as Chief Executive at the Hospice. 

After months of intensive rehabilitation, Kate slowly began to show signs of recovery and her desire to return to a normal life had grown. “All the time, I had this strong passion to get back to who I was – I had worked incredibly hard to get to where I was before the accident. So I felt like I just needed to do something. That’s where RBLI stepped in.

“They told me ‘if you feel well enough to come by bus across town by yourself then come in and say hello and just have a cup of tea with us’. That’s how it started.

“Within a month I was packing jam in a factory. It was only for 10 minutes but I cannot stress how important that was for me. I didn’t have to be supported by anyone.”

Kate has now volunteered with RBLI for three years, and is a familiar face around its Aylesford headquarters. In addition to her regular volunteering, Kate sits on the Board of Trustees and is involved in all of the important decisions and future direction of the charity. 

“There are all sorts of reasons why volunteering may be useful for you,” Kate admits. “I know my story is only one of them but there are thousands out there. I think there are many people who, like me, can benefit from volunteering. You don’t have the same commitments as you might have in a job but you can still do a good job, at your own pace, and still be useful.”

“I think volunteering, and in particular RBLI, have both had a tremendous impact on my recovery. I now manage to cycle on a tandem, because I can’t see well enough to ride a normal bike. My husband and I have started winning tandem time trials – something I never thought I would be able to accomplish.”

If you're interested in volunteering, please email volunteer@rbli.co.uk