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We are Undefeatable – Living with a brain injury and staying active

Noah Rees

Why going out with Pedal People has made such a difference to one young man

It does not matter what long-term health condition or life limiting condition you have, there are physical, cognitive and emotional benefits to being active – but in a way that works for you.

Here we meet with one young man who sustained life-changing  injuries after an accident and who now goes out each week with the Brighton bike charity Pedal People.

When Noah Rees received life-changing injuries following an accident three years ago, little could he imagine what his life would be like now.

But as I chat to the 22-year-old in the glorious sunshine on Brighton beach ahead of his weekly bike ride with the charity Pedal People, it is clear Noah has made remarkable progress.

“It changed my life completely, but maybe for the better,” Noah, who now lives in Peacehaven, says.

“I am definitely a better person now than I was and it makes you look at life completely differently. 

“It takes away all the things you take for granted – eating, drinking, talking, walking – all aspects of dignity. It is all taken away and you are starting from scratch.”

Noah, who attended Broadwater CofE School in Worthing before going to Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove, was always very active and had even hoped to become a professional rugby player.

However, when he was 18 he lost his balance and fell ten metres over the promenade railings near the Fortune of War pub on Brighton seafront.

He broke his spine, skull, ribs – which punctured both his lungs – split his carotid artery (which supplies the brain with blood), severed his optic nerve, had a subdural haematoma, and was left with brain injuries.

Since his year stint in multiple hospitals, including The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, Noah has been working hard relearning everything and making sure he stays active.

After a long period of time in a wheelchair, Noah can now walk with crutches and says he often manages 10,000 steps a day.

One of the activities he loves to do is to go out with Pedal People on an electric assist trike, which he has been doing for the last two years.

Usually Noah goes out for a 90 minute ride before going on to physio later in the day.

“This is not really strenuous, it is more enjoyment and getting out in the fresh air and being out and about,” he says, before adding that he feels it is an important activity both for his physical and mental health.

Sarah Drury, one of his personal care assistants, accompanies Noah on the bike along Brighton seafront.

She says: “It is really great fun and the perfect way to get to know Noah more because it is a relaxing environment for us both.

“You can talk through things and get to know each other on a deeper level.”

Pedal People is a small accessible cycling charity which offers two services – elder care rides and all ages accessible rides for people who are disabled, have educational needs, long-term health conditions, health challenges or life-limiting illnesses.

Participants enjoy rides that range from 6km to 20km, taking in parks, sea and even allotment adventure.

Active Sussex has helped financially support Pedal People, with £9,930 in phase 3 and £9,882 in phase 4 of the Together Fund – a scheme designed to help reduce the inequalities in activity levels within local communities across Sussex.

Elly Hargreave, captain at Pedal People, said: “We know from our participants, who are all living with disability or health challenges, that rides are often their only outdoor activity or exercise opportunity. 

“As well as physical and mental health benefits I think one of the best benefits is the ‘see it to be it’ opportunity.  Seeing all-ages and abilities – out so obviously enjoying the rides, plus the super-duper accessible cycles themselves, influences others to try it and see what is possible when there is equal access to cycling.”

Chatting to Noah, I learn outside of his time with Pedal People he cycles on his Peloton bike at home.

“I have made some very good improvements,” he says. “When I first started I did about 8.3 miles per hour, which is not awful, but now I am getting 20 miles.”

Noah is currently training in shot put and hopes to compete for the UK in either the Paris Olympics 2024 or the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.

When I comment on his energy and determination he explains: “When you can’t [do something]  you are like, well I am going to do it.

“I do have some days when your brain is a bit slow and you don’t feel right, but I wake up, have a coffee and a smoothie and this morning I did a workout.”

You can learn more about Noah and follow his progress by following him on Instagram: come_on_noah

The We Are Undefeatable campaign is a national movement involving 15 of the UK’s leading health and social care charities that encourages and supports people with long term health conditions to be active in a way that works for them. 

You can learn more about the We are Undefeatable campaign by visiting WeAreUndefeatable.co.uk

Noah, a 22 year old man, sitting on a Pedal People bicycle smiling next to Brighton Beach.
Noah says that going out with Pedal People is great for his physical and mental health
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