I was a carefree teenager who lived life to the max, always hanging around with my friends and we loved being out.
Career wise, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I always had a job. This changed when I was successful in gaining a position at a local college, supporting individuals who had visual impairment. I knew that I had found my vocation in life.
I started in this role a couple of months before life as I knew it then was to change for ever.
It was a summer's evening in August 2008, and I had been out with a group of my friends in our local town to watch a band play. Some of us went back to a friend's house and at about 4am I set off walking back home. A friend walked with me.
I don't know what made me cross the road at the wrong time, what – if anything – distracted me, what my friend and I we were talking about at the time, what made me make the split second decision that would change my life forever, but I crossed the road without looking, without taking due care and attention, and the result of this was that I was hit by a van.
I spent a total of 16 months in different hospitals.
I am now totally paralysed and need everything doing for me.
I don't remember anything of the accident, which is probably a good thing. My first memory is waking up in hospital very confused as to what the sounds were around me and wondering what all the tubes and monitors were. My mum's face is the first familiar thing I saw and I do remember that this brought me comfort in the midst of everything going on.
I broke my neck and required an operation for this to be stabilised, my pelvis and my wrist were also broken. I had a bleed on my aorta requiring a stent to be fitted, compartment syndrome requiring an operation on my legs, required skin grafts on my legs, I had a tracheostomy fitted to allow me to be ventilated and a cage was fitted to my pelvis. I was kept in an induced coma for the first three days for the majority of these procedures to be carried out, and subsequently spent three-and-a-half weeks in intensive care.
I spent a total of 16 months in different hospitals; Harrogate, Leeds, Sheffield, with the last eight months being spent in a local rehab centre.
I remember all the conversations which used to go on at my bedside. One in particular was around the fact that I wouldn't be able to breathe again for myself. I remember feeling so determined that I would be able to do so, I made it my focus to prove everyone wrong! Over the months I spent in hospital, trials were run to see if I was able to breathe alone. I always remember my mum turning the monitor around so that I wouldn't panic if I saw my stats drop. Eventually after two years of trials, I was in a position to not be totally dependent on a machine to help me breathe all the time. I still use my vent periodically to give my body a rest, and if I have a chest infection I tend to need it a bit more often, but I am not totally dependent on it which means a great deal to me.
My mum received the necessary vent training from the hospital so that when I had moved to the local rehab centre, she was able to take me out. I enjoyed these times. On November 23, 2009, I moved back to my parents' home which had had to be redesigned (they had only just had a new extension completed!) to allow the installation of all of my equipment and to accommodate the two carers I needed with me at all times. The task of totally rebuilding my life again began and on October 29 2013, I finally moved into my own purpose-built bungalow. This allowed me to live independently which I so wanted.
I must look after my body even more since my accident, and the older I get the more aware I am of this. The long-term effects are that, apart from the paralysis, I have brittle bones, osteoporosis, requiring postural management, a tracheostomy in situ in case I require suction or for times when I do need some assistance from my ventilator, and I am susceptible to pressure sores. If I develop a pressure sore, it can mean me being extremely restricted in what I am able to do including showering, going out and being required to lay on my side for hours at a time in the hope it will heal.
I always wanted to speak about road safety in schools, but felt anxious about doing so; how would it be received?
In 2016, I visited my first school, a small country primary school. I was grateful for this opportunity as it helped me to gauge the children's reaction. It was really well received by the children and the staff and to date I have spoken at more than 20 local schools and groups (Brownies, Cubs etc.). I have received such a warm welcome at every place I have visited which I really do appreciate. I have also recently started promoting what I do through social media and have had a great response to this too.
I talk about the fact that my accident didn't only have an impact on me, it has had a massive impact on my family and also the driver.
I believe that being open and honest about my life is the best way to be with the children as they seem to respond to extremely well, prompting a lot of questions and conversations afterwards. My hope is that by sharing what the reality is of what happens if you don't take care when crossing the road, it will, in a small way, help reduce the number of accidents on the road.
The message I wish to get across is aimed at all age groups. From holding parents' hands, not using your mobile phone while crossing the road to being aware of the roads on a night out. It's all relevant.
The reality is that I now need two carers around me all the time; if not by my side, in a room near me. They do everything for me from getting me washed, brushing my teeth, scratching my nose if I have an itch, cooking and feeding me my tea and enabling me to go out places.
Although I do spend time by myself, I must have a baby monitor by my side in case I need any assistance or if there is an emergency. If I make a call to my friends or family, my conversation is heard through the monitor. I have had to accept that this is my life now.
To use my TV, computer, phone, turn my lights on and off, I use a device called an Eyegaze, similar to an iPad. I can use this using my eyes; it detects my eye movement or when I tire of this, I can use a mouthpiece which is like a computer mouse.
I enjoy shopping, going out and spending time with my friends, going to the cinema and concerts, taking my niece out and spending time with my family. I just can't do anything quickly or without planning now. The times I would just nip to see a friend or nip into town by myself have gone.
My life will never be the same again as a result of not concentrating on the road, and making a life-changing, split second decision to cross it at the wrong time. I hope that by sharing my story, it makes people aware of the impact an accident can have, not only on your life, but on your family and the driver's life. If my story prevents even one person from experiencing what I have been through, then talking to people about my life and road safety is worthwhile.
Posted: 7/11/2018 2:27:33 PM