It was quite daunting really. I found it hard to adjust to my new life. I was quite lost but one thing I did find was sport and that was key to my recovery.
Even before he’d left hospital following the road traffic accident that has left him paralysed from the chest down, Alex Krol had tried out different sports including tennis and cycling. He’d always played tennis and, following his injury, continued as a wheelchair player which saw him winning gold at the 2016 Invictus Games.
Joining the Royal Marines in 2001 Alex was medically discharged just four years later, aged 22: “It was quite daunting really. I found it hard to adjust to my new life. I was quite lost but one thing I did find was sport and that was key to my recovery.”
In 2010, Alex visited Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre: “I was shown everything on offer and it was brilliant.
“One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was part of this family. I wasn’t thinking about my disability anymore, I was getting on with my life.”
Alex has taken part in both the 2016 and 2017 Invictus Games: “I’d been playing sport for so many years but not playing passionately enough. When the Invictus Games came along, it really fired me up to go out there and win.
“When you become disabled, you’re so focused on the things you can’t do and the things you miss out on. Playing sport has such a positive effect. You’re not thinking about your disability because you’re working towards a goal and you’re in the same boat as other people around you.”
Apart from sport, Alex’s other passion is flying and thanks to Aerobility, who received funding from Help for Heroes, he now has his pilot’s license. Using this qualification Alex helps organise flying days for other wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel and Veterans so they too can experience hands-on flying in adaptive aircraft: “When they land they’re absolutely buzzing. Suddenly, if you can fly, other things seem possible too.”
When he’s not inspiring others on the tennis court or in the air, Alex has turned his attention to the simpler, though perhaps less thought of, an aspect of coming to terms with a life-changing injury. He has run several wheelchair skills sessions at Phoenix House Recovery Centre where those who are newly injured can learn how to become confident wheelchair users: “Going from being at peak fitness to suddenly having to adapt to life in a wheelchair is a huge shock and very hard.
“I hope that for those at the start of their rehabilitation, to have someone there who has been through it and can show them not just how to use it but what can be achieved as a wheelchair user will make that transition easier.”
Today, Alex is finding pleasure in helping motivate and guide others: “I’m really passionate about my tennis and flying and I want to help others do what I do in the hope that they’ll make the most of life and the opportunities that come along. You don’t know where life is going to lead you until you try it.”