September 13th 2012.
Chinese tradition treats illness and serious injury the same as death, they follow the same path. If you’re able to overcome this illness, you have cheated death and have another chance at life.
Why me? If only? What If? I hate. I can’t deal with, I give up, are some of the words that are always in my head every second of the day.
The fifth of November 2011 saw a massive change in my life. I went from being a normal 22 year old girl to a girl at the bottom of a river not being able to move and not knowing what had happened to me. Luckily for me, when I overbalanced while sitting on the wall, my friend Sandy was near by and saved my life. (Many assumptions have been made as to how the accident happened, but I simply fell).
I was rushed into Treliske hospital where my mum, dad and brother met me in ITU. I was going through the denial stage, I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t believe when they were saying that I had broken my neck. The rest of that night was a blur, the next day my boyfriend Nelly arrived, and I burst into tears as I couldn’t face having to tell him what had happened to me as I knew it would change his life.
You always think that you’ve found your soul mate and up until that time I thought I had, but not knowing what the future held for me I didn’t know if it was fair for us to stay together as I knew the stress and upset that he would have to go through and he didn’t deserve any of this. Nelly is always the strong one in our relationship, he is the positive seed, the one who can see tings much clearer than I can. And when he said I was going to get better then I knew I was going to get better.
I was airlifted to Derriford Hospital on the Sunday and met numerous consultants on arrival who basically told me that they might not be able to fix my neck and I shouldn’t expect any movement whatsoever. As anyone who has experienced having an operation, it is a scary situation to put your life in someone else’s hands.
When I woke up, my mum was looking over me like an angel and telling me everything was going to be ok and not to talk. I was in Derriford hospital for two weeks not being able to move anything, not even my head. I was treated so well in intensive care as was very lucky to meet such amazing nurses who looked after me through the dark hours.
I arrived in Salisbury Spinal Unit at the end of November 2011. I was rushed into a room where I was bombarded by several nurses. I still was dealing with denial and not believing what people were saying to me, but still my mum and Nelly were by my side. Each day was the same day, looking at the ceiling, crying, asking what I’ve done that was so wrong, and asking mum and Nelly if I would get better.
The second day I was in Salisbury, the big consultant came to visit me and told me that I would never move from my shoulders down or walk again. The words now, still crush me and I thought, ‘how can someone go from being normal go to someone who can’t move anything at all?’ I had the smallest flicker in my wrist, which I had to keep positive in my head so I could keep going and not give up.
I was on bed rest for another 14 weeks and finally was able to experience sitting in a wheelchair, I guess I didn’t handle it so well though, as I couldn’t look at one and the thought of sitting in one made me feel sick.
The first time my bum touched the chair I just wanted to get out, but I had Nelly around me and my uncle who came to visit me that day, they were both so positive and said I was doing so well.
Each day I was hoisted into my wheelchair and each day I hated it but I knew it was the only way forward. My day consisted of going to see an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist who didn’t treat me as someone who was going to get better but treated me as someone who was going to be like the way I was, forever. After three months of being in Salisbury my left arm started to gradually move, but this wasn’t enough for any independence back or even for a doctor to be impressed.
As each month went on I saw other people in the spinal unit either walking or just feeding themselves, something which I can’t do. I used to have to make sure mum and Nelly were with me all the time and stayed with me until 11pm as I was scared of being on my own, as I know my mind can wander and that’s when my demons come out. I was very jealous of people being able to do more than me in the spinal unit, but Nelly always described it as me being at the bottom of the ladder, working my way up, when they had started in the middle. My injury is just worse than theirs, and that’s all it is.
After many more months in Salisbury Hospital we were contacted by Michael Newman, a very nice guy who was well known in the physiotherapy and acupuncture world. He wanted to come and visit me, which he did and basically assessed my situation and told me pretty straight that he can improve my condition and has a really positive energy about me walking again. After a couple of intense sessions with Michael, my left arm was getting more and more strong, so that I was able to give Nelly and my mum and cheeky hit! During the long stay in hospital I feel I was approached like a broken doll who couldn’t be fixed. I was told several times that no one could fix what happened and I wouldn’t walk again, so I started believing it myself. Hard isn’t the word to describe what I’m going through, I don’t think there is a word to describe it. All I know is that I’m very lucky to have such an amazing family and friends.
I finally left Salisbury after six months of being there, I met many amazing and inspiring people and some brilliant nursing staff and carers. After a mammoth drive home I came to my save haven, and entered the house I left walking. There are many memories I’ve had in this house which always seem to remind me when I don’t necessarily need to be reminded, but I just smile to myself and think ‘yes the were amazing memories’ but I’m only 23 and I can still have amazing memories to look forward to.
Since I’m home, my days consist of intense physiotherapy from 1pm onwards either by Michael, Nelly or my mum. Michael does the acupuncture, which has now given me right arm back. I have a full range of movement in both arms now and small movements in my thumbs and index fingers. My mum and Nelly are so amazing they care for me 24 hours of each day and push me to the limit. They are the ones who remind me of what little movement I had at the beginning and what movement I have now, as being like this I can easily forget how far I’ve come. Breaking your neck in a way is like breaking any other bone in your body, it needs time to heal and although I think 10 months is a long time, it really isn’t as I know from the past experiences of breaking a bone in my leg as that has taken a year to properly heal, that these things take time. The more time I’ve been like this I’m able to understand what a spinal cord injury is, I guess before I was naïve about how my body worked but your spinal cord controls pretty much everything from your breathing to even going to the toilet! I’m now at a place where every day it is normal for me to cry to my mum and Nelly and say why me? and What have I done so wrong?
But like I always think, it’s like surfing a big wave, if I fall off I’ll be in the impact zone and the only way to get out of the impact zone is to get back on my board and get out there again.
Having a golden retriever puppy, which I named Dora around, has taken the edge off everything. I know I have a completely different bond with this amazing dog as she knows that I am not myself and she will do anything to get my attention. Every time I get up in my chair she is so happy to see me, it gives me the incentive to get up as motivation isn’t my favourite word at the moment. Whilst balancing training my body back to a state where I’ll be happy again, and adventuring out, I also just want to get in a car and tell Nelly to drive. He normally asks ‘where do you want to go?’ and I reply, ‘I don’t’ care, just take me anywhere.’ When I’m in the car I feel normal again, if you pass other people walking around, or sitting in cars or driving , and as far as they know I’m like them. I’m not the girl who’s in a wheel chair, I’m a girl sitting in a car.
Loving myself is a word that find similar to eating a sour lemon, I Say ‘how can I love myself when I look like the way I do, in a wheelchair’ my family and friends can tell me until they’re blue in the face that I’m still the same girl, and look the same but there’s just something about me now which I can’t love. I’d love there to be a day where I say ‘let’s go for a walk somewhere’ or in my case, ‘lets go for a wheel somewhere’ as then I know I would be loving myself, but now that’s just something else I have got to overcome.
I am overwhelmed by all the support I have had since the accident, there have been many fundraisers which have been held for me. From Nelly’s 7 marathons in 7 days to netball tournaments internationally and regionally as well as the massive raffle that a childhood friend had organised for me to the big bale push in my home town! The list could go on and every fundraiser that I hear about, I do shed a tear as I can’t believe that it’s all being done for me. My family, friends, and even people I don’t know have put my life in perspective and I now know that I’m here for one thing…and that’s fighting back.
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