When Jo Franks, a retired international support worker from Pencombe, Herefordshire, suffered a complex spinal cord injury after slipping on ice nine years ago, she thought she’d never be able to enjoy outdoor pursuits again.
And there were a lot of pursuits she used to enjoy. While working for the children's charity Barnardo's, Jo travelled across India and Tibet, drove 4x4s across Africa, tackled the Himalayas and enjoyed kayaking and cycling in the UK.
But following scans and three weeks in hospital, she was informed that her condition was inoperable due to the fragility of the breaks and the amount of debris present in her spinal cord. Her chronic degenerative disc disease meant Jo had to come to terms with permanent nerve damage resulting in partial left leg paralysis and continual pain.
"I had spent all of my life outdoors. It seemed as if this had all come to an end, it was horrible,” she says. “I was struggling to walk and the pain was terrible. When you experience a life changing injury you desperately crave normality.”
At that time the Disabled Ramblers were unbeknown to Jo, but once she discovered the charitable organisation – which organises around 30 accessible rural and coastal rambles for scooter users a year – she joined a group outing on Exmoor.
Several ramblers turned up in their TGA Supersports and Jo saw for the first time how the scooter provided exceptional performance off-road. "When you are new to disability you commonly have no idea what is the right equipment to buy” she says. “I have wasted so much money on rubbish scooters and other kit that has let me down. My previous scooter, not a TGA, left me marooned in the Wye Forest once resulting in a police rescue – what a nightmare!
“The Supersport is completely different and with so many ramblers telling me of its reliability and sturdiness, I had to buy one. The first time my own Supersport was delivered I tore around the garden, it was so exhilarating. I turned on a sixpence, I did doughnuts and bumped over ditches and ruts with ease, my freedom had returned."
"The first time I experienced the wilderness after my accident was with the Disabled Ramblers in the Supersport – I will never forget it. It was so emotional. I remember crying as I never thought I would ever see places like that again. My Supersport made it a reality.”
As well as the freedom of getting out in rural locations, Jo also revelled in the anonymity of being in a group. “No one saw me as being different,” she says. “Comments are favourable when people talk to me about my scooter but it was nice to be part of a collective. Rocky trails across Exmoor to slate slopes up Snowdonia, my scooter has conquered them all. In fact, it was one of only three scooters that managed to reach the summit of Drum mountain on one trip. Its manoeuvrability is outstanding and means you can quickly get yourself out of situations. The heavy-duty batteries give me all the range I need all day long. Equally you can drive slowly around shops and with accurate control. It is so versatile and I like its unconventional looks."
The scooter has ensured walking her dog at galloping speed is possible and holidays are far more enjoyable. "Despite thrashing my Supersport to bits, it has never failed on me,” Jo adds. ”Bridle paths, thick mud, even deep snow has not held me back. When we got cut off in the winter a few years ago I was the only person able to get out thanks to my scooter. I trust it 100% and visit so many remote places every day."
Today Jo still has the peace of mind that comes with a quality, robust mobility scooter and dependable service from a local TGA dealer. TPG DisableAids support Jo with her servicing needs and in times of difficulty, such as when her battery charger was accidently broken on holiday, they provided a solution fast.
"It was great to see everyone at TPG during their recent safe scooter driving day,” Jo concludes. “I will always be grateful to them for couriering me a charger within 12 hours when I was on holiday in Llandudno, without it my vacation would have been ruined and all the planning of cover for my many animals at home would have been for nothing. They saved the day.
“My Supersport is the best. It just works. Experiencing a spinal cord injury was an incredibly stressful and traumatic time which has taken me many years to come to terms with. This makes being able to get out and about on my TGA Supersport even more precious.”
Range: 30 miles
Max speed: 8mph
Max weight: 31 stone