The Story behind Team Max

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Eight years ago Max Rumball suffered a spinal cord injury whilst surfing in Australia. He and his fiancé Valentina answered our questions and tell us more about their team at the Wings for Life World Run. 

Max, how did the accident happen?
M: I was out in the water surfing, when I saw some people in front of me. So to make sure that I didn’t collide with them, I jumped off my surfboard without realising that I was over a sand bank... 

Valentina, what do you remember about the day of Max's accident?
V: We were travelling across Australia in a van and were four months into our travels. We were enjoying a sunny day on the beach, when Max decided to try the surfboard. I saw him face down in the water drifting away with the current and thought he was being silly.
I realised he was motionless and I started running towards the sea screaming. A man in the water saw me and quickly grabbed Max and took him to the shore. We didn’t get the chance to thank him, but if it wasn't for him, I don’t think that Max would be here today.

Max, what are the first things you can remember?
M: I was in Intensive Care and on high dosages of painkillers and sedatives for ten days.  When the doctor spoke to me and told me that I had suffered a spinal cord injury at C5, I was stuffed with medication and couldn't make sense of it all. I wasn’t aware of what had happened to me until a week or two later. Valentina did all the liaising with the doctor, and tells me that I said, “Vale, I will walk again”.

Valentina, how were you feeling? 
V: I wasn't able to eat or sleep, and I couldn’t leave him. I parked our van outside Max's hospital ward. The nurses and doctors had been amazing throughout and kept an eye on the van at night and let me shower in the nurse’s quarters.

Is your relationship different now?
V: Our relationship isn’t any different. We argue and we make up like anyone else. We had to go through a very difficult patch after Max was realised from hospital, without a job and without a house, the burden of the injury felt unbearable, but I would like to think that it has made us stronger and more resilient.

M: That is true, but the challenge is not allowing it to upset you.

Max, is there anything you miss from the days before you had your accident?
M: I’d say riding my bike. Val and I have three kids: Leonardo, eight years old, Vivian is five and Oliver, 20 months old. It fills my heart with joy to take my kids riding their bikes. In a way, I ride again through and with them.

What are the biggest barriers that you face?
M: Going on holiday and navigating a new place. You have to do a lot of research and planning before you go away.

What do you think of Wings for Life?
M: I think they do great work. More often than not, spinal cord injury is overlooked by research because it is not a life threating disease. It is important that people know what it is, how to safeguard themselves and, more importantly to find a cure.

What about the Wings for Life World Run?
V: I like the fact that I can run for Max and raise awareness, and that every starting fee of the Wings for Life World Run will go into spinal cord research.
There are so many people that don't know what spinal cord injury is or how it can happen, and I feel that other diseases related to the nervous system and the spinal cord are also overlooked by research. The Wings for Life World Run is helping to increase awareness and improve understanding.

M: Valentina and our friends took part last year and we loved the fact it felt like a big family.

What inspired you to set up your own Team?
V: With our "Team Max" want to raise awareness, and the fact that we can share the pain. The fact that I am doing it with friends is motivating and encouraging to keep me going.

M: This year more of our friends have signed up. We're still recruiting, and we have friends running in Australia and Italy. Hopefully everyone will have fun, raise awareness - be together all across the globe.

Team Max will be out in full force on 8th May at the Wings for Life World Run with friends competing in the UK, Australia and Italy, and you can join them by signing up on the day or supporting them here.