‘Paralysed for life but I couldn’t be happier! – UMUSEKE – News indeed
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On the morning of August 9, 2015, my life changed for ever when I broke my back in a horrific cycling accident. I was paralysed from the waist down and knew moments after I crashed into a signpost at 50mph that I would never walk again. My accident happened on a notoriously dangerous hill in West Sussex, near where I live.

My first race in less than a year saw me complete a tough 5k in the wheelchair, using my arms which are now my new legs.

And I can honestly say that, were I given the choice of going down the hill again that day, or walking away at the top, I would go down it again.

Today I am the happiest I have ever been. In fact, I consider myself the luckiest person alive.

Yes, there are some days when chronic pain and lack of independence really get to me. But you can control how it affects you, turning what life throws at you into something positive.

Since my accident, I have laughed and cried harder than ever before. I have become a more tolerant, patient and grateful person.

I now have a wonderful part-time job working for Stoke Mandeville Hospital – and the independence to drive myself there.

I am closer to my family than ever before and my marriage is undoubtedly stronger. I have competed in 12 athletics races and continue to collect medals.

From the day of my accident, I decided to document every day of my new life on Facebook, to let friends know what had happened to me, keep them up-to-date with my progress and also help others realise what life in a wheelchair is really like.

I had no idea the impact it would have and was absolutely overwhelmed by the thousands of messages of support and offers of help I received from around the world, often from total strangers. I never expected the Facebook posts to become a book, but that’s what happened earlier this year.

And as this selection of diary extracts from it show only too well, none of us knows what lies around the next corner…

August 9, 2015

A few years ago, with my four children settled into school, I had decided to get fit. I became a keen runner and had completed four marathons. Now, at 44, I was training for a half Ironman triathlon.

On that sunny Sunday morning, I had to cycle 56 miles, having run 13 the day before.

One minute I was at the top of a very steep hill. The next, I was hurtling down it, totally out of control.

The brakes just weren’t working – and I was terrified. Somehow, I managed to make the bushes and undergrowth on the side of the road. Then a huge ‘smack’ sent me crumpling to the ground.

It felt as if someone had whacked me at full force with a metal object in the base of my back.

I have never known pain like it and could feel a warm fluid creeping up my legs.

At first, I thought it was blood. Then the realisation dawned on me: it was paralysis.

I was also struggling to breathe and felt as if a knife was going through my chest.

My phone had been thrown from my pocket and I was completely hidden in the undergrowth. I really thought I was going to die.

In fact, I even looked around for a rock so I could hit myself over the head and end it all, rather than lying there suffering. Then I remembered – my four children! I had to fight to the bitter end.

After what felt like an eternity, I saw the wheels of a bike. I cried out with all my might and to my utter relief, a head popped over the bushes.

Later, in hospital, I was told I’d collided with a signpost as I landed in the undergrowth. I’d broken all my left ribs, my collarbone and my back. I was never going to walk again.

My spinal cord was severely damaged as a result of breaking three vertebrae – in fact the reason I am paralysed is because one of the vertebra was so badly crushed it pinched the cord.

I also needed rods and screws inserted into my spine to straighten it. But I didn’t want people to be sad for me. At that moment, I felt lucky and relieved to be alive.

August 15

Compared with a marathon, my challenges now seem trivial. I can now sit up in bed, pour my own water and feed myself. But it’s progress.

September 6

My family came to visit me at Stoke Mandeville Hospital today, and saying goodbye almost broke my heart. My children Megan, 17, Jacob, 15, Amelia, 13, and Joe, 11, seemed to have grown up overnight since my accident. I guess they had to.

September 27

What would have been triathlon day – and the reason I am lying here! I realise now I wasn’t actually training for my triathlon but for the amazing adventure that I am now on. Ironically, it is the fitness from my training that is helping me recover so well and is even responsible for keeping me alive while I lay in the bushes that day.

October 24

What’s life like in a wheelchair? Cars are scarier because you’re nearer the ground. Your hands get mucky because your wheels pick up all sorts of dirt. My neck hurts from having to look up at people so I don’t stare at their crotch! And the hand-dryer is now a hair-dryer for me.

October 30

I am currently the only patient on my ward at Stoke Mandeville with hands that work. Losing the use of your legs is a lot easier than losing your hands – and I thank God every night that I still have mine.

Christmas Day

Spinal injury patients suffer many bowel problems as a result of their injuries. I am having a lot of ‘accidents’, which I find really upsetting – it’s actually harder to deal with than not being able to walk. This is what causes people with a spinal injury the most trauma, upset and depression. It feels degrading and demoralising.

January 3, 2016

I have never once felt bitter or angry about my accident and thought ‘Why me?’ Hopefully I have saved someone else from this fate who might not deal with it as well.

February 29

My third week back at home and, despite my excitement, I never knew sitting in a wheelchair could be such hard work. Wheeling on carpet, being a midget at the worktops… I used to love cooking. Today I finally managed to make a meal for my family and it was one of my biggest achievements to date. I feel like a mum again.

April 15

I’ve had one of the most amazing weeks of my life at the Interspinal Games, representing Stoke Mandeville by competing in a variety of sports. The spinal injury world is an amazing one to be in. Personal bests are no longer a priority; taking part is the most important thing.

May 9

I have decided to mark my year anniversary with something truly memorable. On August 9, my eldest daughter Megan and my friend Kerry and I will be doing a skydive. It beats the heck out of hitting a metal post at 50mph, that’s for sure.

May 20

Some running friends have told me not to give up hope and they’re sure I’ll run again some day – despite me saying I’m really happy with my new life. There are hard days but, hand on heart, no one should feel sorry for me because I am the happiest I have ever been. Looking back, I realise now how obsessed I was with being fit. I certainly didn’t see as much of my family as I do now.

May 22

My first race in less than a year since almost killing myself and it was the best feeling ever. A tough 5k in the wheelchair, using my arms which are now my new legs, and boy did it hurt! I sobbed as I went over the finish line.

August 3

I think some people – including me before my accident – perceive life in a wheelchair to be easier than it is. It’s not surprising some people with a spinal injury turn into recluses, with people not knowing how to behave around you, and having to accept the things you can no longer do. But I just have to get on with it.

August 8

It’s mine and my husband Vic’s wedding anniversary. Vic has carried us all this year, holding down a full-time job as a bricklayer while caring for our children and me. And as a couple, we have faced our biggest hurdle, yet it has made us stronger. Before the accident we were struggling; life was hectic and, with all my running, we seldom found time for each other. My accident made us both take stock of what we so nearly lost.

August 9

Today is not a day to be sad, it’s a day to be happy and celebrate the most amazing year I’ve ever had. The skydive was a total contrast to the year before when I lay totally unable to move. Instead, I flew through the air like a bird; up there, no one needs legs.

Daily Mail


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