Becoming a para rider: "After 20 weeks in hospital, I went home"

Following on from my last blog and introduction, I thought it’d be interesting to take a brief look over what happened at the beginning of last year.

January was spent in the spinal unit at Salisbury. As I mentioned before, the dark days suddenly got a lot brighter as I learnt how to cope with the bladder and bowel management of my injury, one highlight being when my children Harry and Stella came to visit and I had arranged to go to a local pub for lunch.

The local pub, as it turned out, wasn’t that local. Dad’s sat nav took us the long way round and we nearly ended up on an airstrip runway. The kids were screaming “where are we?”, it was pouring down with rain and when we eventually arrived at the pub, I nearly ended up in the flower bed in our haste to get inside.

When we got into the bar, it was rammed. Everybody moved and I got to the front shouting “excuse me, excuse me!” (I can see how this wheelchair could become an advantage). Even though they couldn’t see me over the bar, I shouted “a double G&T please!” and got served remarkably quickly.  

The fun came when my daughter helped in in the toilet and let’s just say we wet ourselves laughing as I’d had an accident. As Stella helped me she too became covered… Can you imagine the chaos in the toilet?!

Making future plans

Lots of amazing friends visited me in January and we made plans for how I’d manage back home.

At the end of the month, Harry and Stella came to stay in the flat at the hospital. We had an amazing weekend, shopping, eating and cooking together just like old times and they were so accepting of my needs and condition.

The stay in the flat was another tick in the box closer to being discharged home. I was so proud of Harry and Stella; they amaze me. I love them so much, they’re my inspiration to keep going.

February came and went with me saying goodbye to Harry as he went on a school skiing trip and Stella came to stay a few days with me in hospital. Harry loved the trip and Stella got to spend much needed time with me.

We went swimming together, raced up the pool and obviously I still won! We spent some time at Wilton RDA, we went out shopping together and she joined in my physio and rehab.

I also had a meeting in February to fit and order my wheel chair that was paid for by the incredible generosity from family and friends on a Just Giving page that was set up following my accident. I’m so thankful to all who donated towards this as my wheelchair has become a part of me.

My discharge date was set for the end of February and I couldn’t wait. After 20 weeks in hospital, breaking my back, sustaining a life-changing spinal injury and being left paralyzed from the waist down, I went home.

Living outside the bubble

March was a busy month, establishing a new routine, sleeping in my lounge and trying to learn how to live on the outside of the bubble I’d been in was harder than I ever thought imaginable.

The team at my yard were fantastic and made me a ramp to get up into the yard and into the tearoom. It meant I could have coffee and watch Stella ride. It brought tears to my eyes to think that I was back doing the things I enjoyed with special people.

I’d been chosen to represent the unit at Salisbury in the annual Spinal games competition at Stoke Mandeville stadium in April (obviously they saw I had potential!).

I attended the games with seven others who’d also been injured in the last 12 months and this opportunity opened up so many doors and friendships that has been invaluable.

As a team, we took part in various sports against about 11 other spinal centres. We had the most amazing support and team bond that this experience will stay with me forever.

As a group we had a right blast. The highlight of the week was my family coming to watch and support me. Overall we came second out of 12 units – not a bad outcome and I absolutely loved it.

Towards the end of the month I took my driving assessment. Let’s just say the instructor must’ve had nerves of steel... there was definitely room for improvement with my driving with hand controls. I joked with the kids and told them I’d bought a mobility scooter. They were mortified.

In May, I went to Badminton Horse Trials with my great friend, Sue Edward. She worked really hard sorting out the travel arrangements and borrowing me a mobility scooter. I was in my element. Pimms in the sun, watching the horses from the premier enclosure and shopping… What more could I ask for?

Later that month was a dressage event organised by Severn Vale Riding Club. My daughter Stella and friend Julie entered and both did really well – Stella won her class and they both qualified for the championships.

One of the most exciting things that happened that day was that my friend and trainer Beth Miller offered me her horse Super Flynn to ride again as a para horse. I was over the moon. A later trip to Bristol RDA was a huge success in one way, but also shut doors in another.

All of which, I'll tell you about later.