I’ve always enjoyed sports, especially cross-country running, horse riding and figure skating. I was happy and healthy. I had a caring boyfriend, and lots of friends. We socialised, and enjoyed fun runs. I met new friends at the walk and running events. I loved life. I had the world at my feet . . . or so I thought. But then my story took a turn.
I started getting a dull pain in my ribcage. I thought maybe I’d pulled a muscle while doing some activities. I sought medical advice and they referred me to a specialist for further examination, who decided I should have a myelogram, a procedure in which a special dye is used in conjunction with X-rays to create pictures of the bones and spaces between the bones. A needle would be inserted into the base of my spine and a dye injected, after which an X-ray would be taken.
On that fateful day in March 2001, the myelogram went tragically wrong, leaving me paralysed, and wheelchair-bound for life. I had suffered nerve damage and a spinal bleed. I was 34 at the time.
All the things I took for granted (such as walking), abruptly ended.
I walked into hospital a fit, healthy, active young woman, and came home paralysed in a wheelchair. It felt like a nightmare I wanted to wake up from. I was devastated.
I now had the biggest challenge of my life ahead of me.
My life revolved around doctors and hospitals for the next five years. I had to undergo 10 major operations, one of which was a leg amputation – all related to the paralysis. My life hung in the balance on many occasions, but somehow I managed to fight and live another day.
I never gave up, even though emotionally I was a broken woman. I had to accept my life in a wheelchair. I had to learn how to be independent again: how to drive a modified vehicle, bathe myself, you name it. It took a long time to recover physically from 10 traumatic operations in five years. I had endless complications after surgery, and blood/ bacterial infections. I was on life support several times.
My health improved as the days and months passed by. I fought back for the sake of my family.
I wanted my active lifestyle back, no matter what.
I spent months in rehab units having physiotherapy and so forth. I had to learn how to cook and be independent. It was an extremely challenging time, but I had to work hard and accept my predicament.
My recovery was slow, but with never-ending help, love and support from my dearest parents, and endless encouragement from family, friends and my caregiver, I began to get my confidence back.
Physiotherapy continued, I set new goals and got physically stronger. I was healthier and positive.
I socialised with my friends again; we laughed and cried together.
In 2007 I passed my driving test in my specially adapted car. I knew then that the tears of joy I shed that day were a sign of my life getting back on track. Passing my driving test was my boarding pass to freedom.
I’ve moved on with my life in a big way. I live life to the full: I exercise daily, cook and so forth. I lead a fully independent life in my wheelchair and really enjoy doing fun “run” events. They inspire me to do more and never give up.
I hope my story will inspire and help others, with whatever traumatic events they may be going through, or may have suffered. Time, patience and a positive attitude is the key. Life does get better. Slowly the smiles return.
I dedicate this story to my dear parents, who’ve fought nonstop to help me regain my independence in what were the darkest days of our lives – they are my heroes.