Lindsay became paralysed on her birthday in October 2011.  At the time she had two small children, aged two and three. She has been an Aspire Independent Living Advisor for three years and is passionate about helping others with a spinal cord injury to live independently.

Becoming paralysed

Before I became paralysed I had a pre-existing condition which I hadn’t known about.  I’d had a few small symptoms and my GP had said I was probably B12 deficient.  However, two weeks after seeing the GP and having slightly different sensations in one leg, I had a car accident, which I walked away from with just a bit of pain. 

Nine days after the accident I came home from work and had excruciating pain in my chest through to my back.  The next morning – my birthday - my left leg was dragging. I went to the hospital, had   a blood and urine test and they told me I was fine and sent me home.  The next day both of my legs were dragging but as it was a Sunday I thought I’d wait to see my GP on Monday morning.  So I dragged myself there and was sent back to the hospital.  I had an MRI which showed a bleed down my spinal cord.  They didn’t know what it was and within a few hours I had lost all sensation in my legs. For a week they thought I had a tumour but finally diagnosed it as a cavernoma and told me I was not going to walk again.  By this point I was actually relieved because I’d thought I had cancer and might die.  I had spent the week hoping I would see my kids grow up so when they told me I would live but not be able to walk, it was a relief. 

When I became paralysed I had two small kids – Rhys aged three and Summer aged two.  Whilst I was in hospital my mum became seriously ill so I had to also spend time visiting her before she passed away.   My husband Martin gave up work, as someone had to look after the children, help me visit my sick mum and sort out her funeral. And then, once she passed away, the council demanded her house back. All this whilst I was still in hospital and I had no home to go back to as I was privately renting but couldn’t go back there as it wasn’t accessible. 

Having so much going on at the time kept me going and then it was about adjusting. I prioritised what I needed to sort out, such as the logistics of where to live, then learning to drive a car with hand controls so I could take the children to school and be independent.  I put my whole life into a list of priorities. 

I never thought about what I couldn’t do – I didn’t have the energy for that – I always looked at what I could do and focused on that.  My philosophy is that you only have so much energy so why use it up thinking about the things you can’t do?

Within a couple of months after leaving hospital, I learnt to drive through Motability, who gave me two lessons in my hand-controlled car and I then spent a week driving by myself to make sure I would be safe before I drove my kids anywhere.  I also spent a day putting my wheelchair in and out of the car to get the right technique.  I was able to get a lightweight wheelchair through Wheelchair Services, but it’s not about strength - I needed to be able to do it as quickly as possible if I had small children in the car, before they started to moan! 

I spent seven months in a general hospital and I really missed my kids during that time.  Rhys had always been a mummy’s boy so he was ok, but Summer completely rejected me.  Once I came home from hospital, that’s when she clung to me.  For a while they slept in bed with me, but I loved it as during those months away I had yearned for those bedtime cuddles with them. 

My priorities shifted a bit once I was out of the hospital.  Rather than trying to carry on with our rushed lives, I slowed it down and took time to enjoy the small things like just spending time with the kids – often just sitting and chatting with them - rather than thinking that we should be up and out every day doing things all the time.  I’d had so much time without them that I wanted to enjoy as much time with them as I possibly could.

As they were so young when I was injured, they don’t see me as being in a wheelchair, I am just Mum. 

Children only know what they are taught so they don’t look at me any differently because it’s what they know.  When I was first in a wheelchair I went into the school as I was worried that other kids would start asking theme questions, and I offered to go in and do a talk if necessary, but I never had to.  They have never had any problems, no one says anything.

Once we had sorted our housing out, I looked at all the activities I could do with the kids.  We do all sorts of activities.  I take them camping, swimming, I watch Rhys play tennis and play tennis with him.  I watch Summer play football and take her to watch football matches.  They both do martial arts and I’m able to help them practice with pad work by letting them hit me!  We also like going to theme parks, where they enjoy being able to go to the front of the queue because they are with me!

Martin and I got married one year four days before my accident, although we had been together six years.  We have now been together 15 years and he is my rock.  When I was first injured I took the kids to school because I wanted to, but now I get them ready and Martin takes them, so I don’t have to rush around too much.  He will do little things for me to help out, such as getting my wheelchair out of my car from me when I get home.  I’m able to do it myself, but he likes to help to prevent me getting more shoulder pain.  I am very lucky that he’s so supportive.  I am totally independent, but it’s nice to have the support.

Lindsay as an Aspire Independent Living Advisor

Helping others with a spinal cord injury

Because I was in a general hospital after being paralysed and not in a Spinal Injury Centre, I am passionate about helping others, so that they can get the advice they need to become independent as soon as possible.  It took me a lot longer to learn things that could have been told to me from the start. 

This is why I work for Aspire as an Independent Living Advisor (ILA).  I had done their InstructAbility Programme so I could help disabled people who want to work out or who want to become fitness instructors, and during my work placement I met David Morphew, who was working as an ILA at the time.  Before then, I hadn’t even known there was such a role, but David encouraged me to apply.

When I trained as a fitness instructor through InstructAbility, my main aim was to help other people because not being in a Spinal Injury Centre, it had taken me so long to learn things.  I wanted to be that gap in the middle to help people. 

Seeing people at the beginning of their journey makes me realise how far I’ve come and helps me understand what advice they need from me to help them become independent. 

I also volunteer at the general hospital where I spent months, to help patients there understand that independence is possible. 

Travelling with a spinal cord injury

I had always enjoyed holidays and having a spinal cord injury has not stopped us going on holiday as a family.  We have been to Europe, including Euro Disney, and the USA.

Lindsay with her two children at Euro Disney

I always contact the hotel directly and ask them to show me a video or photos of the entire room so I can work out the logistics.  For me, a holiday is ruined if the wet room is rubbish.  I can deal with anything else.  I will also always let the airline know I am travelling with them in advance. 

My first holiday after becoming disabled was to Tenerife and this is when I learnt not to bother booking with a specialist disability holiday company.  Despite specifying that I needed a wet room and air conditioning, the room had the worst designed bathroom I’ve ever seen, which would flood the entire apartment, there was just a noisy ceiling fan which did nothing and the pool hoist was rusty.  We had a good time as Tenerife is a great island and very accessible, but it wasn’t worth paying £2,000 more than others on the same holiday, so we now book the flights and hotels ourselves.

Lindsay with her son


I have started to vlog as a way to hopefully help people to learn all those practical things earlier on in their journey, rather than later as I did, and so they can avoid the mistakes that I made.  I speak with people of all ages, some newly injured and some who have been paralysed for 30 or 40 years, and I base my blog on the things that people ask about, such as getting in and out of a car, going on holiday or how to make adaptations in their house.

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