“One thing became incredibly clear to me from the beginning, which was, your mind is your biggest asset”
1 year ago to that day I had an accident that changed my life. I was feeling ill at home which caused me to blackout. Such a minor innocuous fall had catastrophic results. The way I fell forward, along with the fact I fell on a box which meant my torso didn’t fall flat on the floor, led me to hyper extend my neck. The fall had caused damage to my spinal cord at levels C4 and C5 and although I was only unconscious for a matter of 4 or 5 seconds when I came round, I had no feeling in either hand and from the waist down I was COMPLETELY PARALYSED.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, this situation was the most frightening and debilitating experience I have ever undergone. I live in a town house which has 6 flights of stairs and you guessed it, sods law, I was on the top floor. When the paramedics arrived they quickly established from my symptoms that I had suffered a spinal injury and stressed that I made no attempt to move, however every fibre in my body and every thought I could muster just wanted my legs, that I could not feel, to move but to no avail. At that point I became a difficult patient! One minute very calm and the next completely freaking out. I was placed on a spinal board by two teams of paramedics, carried down 6 flights of stairs and taken straight to the major trauma centre, St Georges Hospital.
That night in hospital I didn’t sleep a wink, obviously, but rather than become paralysed by fear I did three things which in my opinion and that of my physiotherapists and consultants began a remarkable journey to recovery. It is a well-known fact that the mind cannot differentiate between reality and imagination and where the mind can go the body must follow so the first thing I did was continuously, over and over again, visualise myself walking. The second thing I did was make a conscious decision that I’ve already made a full recovery and I’m just waiting for my body to catch up and the third thing was I committed 100% that whatever I needed to do to aid my recovery I was absolutely prepared to do without question.
I spent 5 weeks in St Georges’ hospital. As well as seeing the doctors, nurses and physiotherapist I also had access to the Trauma Clinical Psychologist. She recently confessed that she thought I was in denial because each time she saw me I seemed more determined and my spirit was even brighter.
I then spent a further 10 weeks in Stoke Mandeville Spinal Unit. One thing became incredibly clear to me from the beginning, which was, your mind is your biggest asset and as long as you have control of that and the willpower to never give up, anything is possible. Testament to this fact is whilst in Stoke Mandeville I met a gentleman, and although you can never truly compare, he had a very similar injury to me, swelling and bruising on his spinal cord at levels C4 and C5. When I met him, I had been injured for approximately 10 weeks and although I could stand using 2 crutches for short periods of time, he had been injured for 18 months and still had no use of either hand and from the waist down was completely paralysed.
Whilst in Stoke Mandeville I soon gave up my wheelchair completely and went from two crutches, to one crutch, to a walking stick. Although I still needed my walking stick, when I was discharged, I walked through the front door completely unaided! I still use my walking stick today and although I am a lot stronger and quicker I am not quite at the stage where I can give it up yet.
I have a long way to go on my journey but from where I was just over a year ago my journey has been, arduous, tiring, exhausting but most of all unforgettable.
“I was later told by doctors in intensive care that with these injuries he should not have survived”
N*, my husband and best friend, was knocked from his mountain bike by a car, just yards from our home in Surrey. He suffered life threatening/life changing injuries. At the scene he was attended to by the KSS Air Ambulance who transferred him direct to the major trauma center at St Georges Hospital.
N* sustained fractures to the base of his skull, cheekbones and eye socket along with a shattered elbow where he lost skin and tissue. His pelvis was broken in two places, both legs were broken of which one was fractured in several places. He also sustained brain damage. I was later told by doctors in intensive care that with these injuries he should not have survived.
If it wasn't for the speed and skills provided by the KSS doctors and pilots my story would be so very different. Although that was a key part to N* surviving, the NHS were at their finest when he was then transferred to St. George's Hospital, who had the resources available to care for someone who was as sick as N*. There were so many doctors and nurses who have helped N* during the two months he was an inpatient and have continued to help him on his journey of rehabilitation. I will be eternally grateful to all of them.
It was a terrible time for me and our daughters, not knowing what each day would bring. The support we received from family, friends and neighbours helped us through this difficult time.
N*'s drive and determination to recover from these horrific injuries has been an inspiration to me and those around us.