Formerly paralysed Rae's Commonwealth Baton Relay honour

POTTERS BAR - 9th June 2022: Pictured here is Rae, a Comic Relief fundriaser. Rae is one of four Que

Rae Saleem will carry the baton for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay in Hemel Hempstead on July 8. - Credit: Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief

An inspirational fundraiser from Potters Bar - who learned to walk again after a cycling accident - will run part of the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Rae Saleem is one of the baton bearers nominated in recognition of their contributions to their community, with the 47-year-old set to complete his leg in Hemel Hempstead on July 8.

The relay started at Buckingham Palace in October last year, and will end 294 days later in Birmingham on July 28, the day the Commonwealth Games begins.

“When I was nominated by Sport Relief to be a baton bearer at the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay I was overwhelmed,” Rae said.

“It was such a surprise, and I am so humbled and honoured to be invited to take part.”

Back in 2017, Rae would not have believed he would be taking part in such an event after a bike accident left him paralysed.

POTTERS BAR - 9th June 2022: Pictured here is Rae, a Comic Relief fundriaser. Rae is one of four Que

The 47-year-old was paralysed in 2017 after a cycling accident. - Credit: Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief

“I was out riding on a little side road near my home and going downhill. I must have been going a little too fast because I clipped the kerb and went flying over the handlebars,” he recalled.

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“My face smashed into the pavement and my body followed, and as I landed, I broke my neck. I didn't realise at the time, but I was paralysed instantaneously, like the flick of a switch.”

Luckily for Rae, a nurse was walking nearby and came to his rescue.

“I was still conscious and could see blood oozing out of my head,” he continued.

“I was all alone on a quiet suburban street, but call it God's grace, coincidence, fate - a few minutes later, a lady walked up who happened to be a nurse.

“She was able to call the ambulance and escalate the call. 20 minutes felt like an eternity.

“They put me on a stretcher and my arm was hanging off the edge. One of the paramedics asked if I could move it and I willed it to move, but there was no response. It was terrifying.”

Rae had broken four vertebrate which had gone into his spinal cord. He had also broken his skull, suffered neurological damage and serious facial injuries, including a broken nose and cheekbone.

“I was taken to Barnet Hospital and then transferred to the Royal London Hospital Major Trauma Unit,” he said.

“Experts at the Royal London told me that I was lucky to be alive, but I would never walk again.

“I remember lying in the hospital bed, and watching another patient get up and go to the toilet by himself. It made me realise how grateful I would be just to do that.”

But then, after a lengthy spell in hospital and multiple life-threatening operations, a miracle happened.

POTTERS BAR - 9th June 2022: Pictured here is Rae, a Comic Relief fundriaser. Rae is one of four Que

Rae has taken on multiple physical challenges for charity since learning to walk again. - Credit: Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief

“After several weeks of recovery, I looked down and saw my toes move,” he said.

“In that moment I just couldn’t believe it. I was so grateful, so thankful to God, that I could do just that tiny thing. That was the spark that ignited the flame in my recovery. With newfound drive and perseverance, I went through rehab like a Rocky movie training camp.”

Rae would learn to walk again, leaving hospital in 2018. He still suffers from spasms and pains, while nerve damage means his right side is weaker than his left. But, he has not let this hold him back, completing a number of physical challenges to raise money for Comic and Sport Relief.

“Comic Relief ticked all my boxes; the mental health focus, homelessness, which my family was pretty much on the verge of when I couldn’t work, and the focus on children surviving and thriving,” he explained.

“During my recovery, it was so important that I was able to keep my mind intact even though my body had gone. I’m so grateful that I managed pull myself out of those dark holes of depression.”

With his life back on track, he his keen to enjoy the moment when he completes his leg of the Queen's Baton Relay.

POTTERS BAR - 9th June 2022: Pictured here is Rae, a Comic Relief fundriaser. Rae is one of four Que

Rae is keen to take in the moment when he runs his leg of the relay. - Credit: Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief

“When I’m carrying the baton, I want to make sure I will be absolutely present in the moment so I can allow the full meaning of it to sink in. It will be a pivotal life moment for me,” he said.

“Not so long ago, I was in a bed not able to move, reliant on three carers after being told I would never walk again.

“Now, after my recovery and nearly five years on, I am able to represent Sport Relief by lifting the baton in the Commonwealth Games’ Queen’s Baton Relay. It is a real honour and I hope I can be a beacon of hope to people.

“The thought is humbling and fills me with pride. Hopefully I can inspire and motivate other people to be the best versions of themselves as I celebrate that moment.”

To find out more about Sport Relief and how you can get involved, visit comicrelief.com/sportrelief.