A woman who sustained a spinal injury when she was accidentally struck by a rugby ball has described how her ordeal has inspired her to share her experience and help others with similar injuries.
The former teacher was five months into her first senior teaching role as Head of Design and Technology at a local secondary school when the incident occurred in February 2008.
Whilst walking to one of her lessons, a group of boys, who were playing with a bag of rugby balls, accidentally kicked one of the balls into her forehead. The force of the ball sent her backwards and caused her to strike her head against a doorframe. This is the last thing she remembers about the accident.
Although an ambulance was called, she was sent home after apparently telling the paramedics she felt fine and didn’t need to go to hospital.
But when she vomited the following day, her husband took her to hospital where doctors told her she probably only had concussion. Over the next few days she suffered with headaches, dizziness and short-term memory loss. But when she visited her GP, she was again told it was simply concussion.
Her first clear memory following the accident was a week later when her father knocked on her door and told her it was her sister’s wedding the next day. Even though she went along, she has very little memory of what should naturally have been a very special day.
She continued to suffer a number of symptoms that included worsening headaches, constant dizziness, and extreme fatigue. In addition, she often couldn’t remember things she had just read and she would frequently fall asleep at the dinner table. When she was eventually referred to the neurology department at her local hospital she was diagnosed with a brain injury.
Despite the relief of finally receiving what on the surface appeared to be a definitive diagnosis for her injury, her constant symptoms - which now included severe nausea - made it impossible for her to return to work, despite her best efforts.
Shortly afterwards, she underwent an MRI scan which tragically revealed that in addition to damage to her brain, she had also sustained a spinal injury. Within a matter of weeks, she was in a wheelchair, barely able to walk.
After undergoing surgery on her spine, she discovered she had no sensation below her neck. Doctors told her not to worry as this was only temporary but, the feeling in her right leg never returned. By the following year she was told the heart-breaking news she would need a wheelchair for the rest of her life and the issues with her motor skills, memory and fatigue would also remain permanent.
Naturally, she was left feeling utterly devastated, as well as agoraphobic and filled with regret about losing her dream career in teaching. After a few months, however, she began a course in ceramics at a specialist further education college for people with disabilities.
The course has helped boost her confidence tremendously and she has even recently begun helping one of her tutors with teaching. Furthermore, she has been thinking a great deal about how she might use her experience to help others deal with the huge emotional upheaval a spinal injury can cause.
Everyone deals with traumatic events in different ways. Coming to terms with and adjusting to the numerous new challenges of living with a spinal cord injury can be especially difficult, not only for the injured person concerned but also for their families and loved ones.
Sadly, there is currently no effective treatment for spinal cord injury, and it is important people understand that such an injury could happen to anyone at any time as a result of an accident or illness.
The Slater and Gordon Spinal Injuries team has access to a network of medical experts and treatment providers with a huge range of experience in helping people who have sustained spinal cord injuries. We can arrange medical treatment, physiotherapy, counselling, retraining, re-housing and many other rehabilitation services.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers are proud to be a Diamond Corporate Sponsor of the Spinal Injuries Association, the leading national charity for spinal cord injured people and their families.
If you or a member of your family are affected by spinal cord injury, please call our Spinal Injury team on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.