Last summer I had been back and forth into hospital with neck pain.  I was in agony but was told it was muscular.  Then on the morning of 28th August 2021 I woke up and couldn’t feel my left arm or my legs.  I was taken to hospital as they thought I’d had a stroke and things went rapidly downhill from there.  I ended up ventilated and intubated and when I woke up I could feel only from my shoulders up.

I was 58 at the time and a nurse.  I’d retired when I was 55 but was working as an agency nurse. I was part of the Covid vaccination programme and really enjoying it, but I had to give that up.  That was a big thing, resigning from the register, but I know I’ll never be dextrous enough to work as a nurse again.

I’ve been married to Dean for 35 years and we have two adult sons, one of whom just got married in July.  I found being in hospital a struggle because I saw my family less.  When I was first in hospital in intensive care, because of Covid my husband couldn’t see me for almost a week.  Once I was transferred to the Spinal Injury Centre at the end of January, at first I was in a side room by myself – because I was quite poorly and had had to have further surgery because one of the pins they’d put in had bent – so they let my husband and mum come to see me.  I was in hospital nine months and only saw my sons three times.  I would have been allowed to see them off the ward but I was never well enough.

Julie in her wheelchair

In the Spinal Injury Centre I met Matthew, Aspire’s Independent Living Advisor.  He is an absolute star! He is so nice and takes everything in good spirits; we used to take the mick out of him and I think he would sometimes come in just so we could tease him!  

Matthew is ever so helpful; whatever you ask him he always comes back to you via text or email.  When I was allowed to go back for physio for a further six weeks we were chatting about holidays and he said, “when you’re ready give me a call, because whatever you need I’ll be able to point you in the right direction.”

Drew, Aspire’s Assistive Technologist, was a lifesaver when I was first in isolation in the Spinal Injury Centre as he came and set my iPad up for voice control.  For the first time in seven months, I was able to read a book which made such a difference because I’m an avid reader.  Although my husband wasn’t so chuffed when I began to order stuff from Next and Amazon! 

These days everything is technology based.  I couldn’t move but I could see the lady next to me was watching a series on Netflix.  Even though I had my iPad I didn’t like to ask staff for help as they were short staffed, and I needed help putting headphones on too.  So once I was able to use voice control to do it myself it was a game changer. Drew was very passionate about helping everybody he could.

Matthew and Drew are both always extremely helpful and will always get back to you.  This is so important when they might be the only people you see with that specific knowledge.  

My plan - when I finally get to where I’m going - is to go back and volunteer as a woman with a spinal cord injury on that ward, just to chat.  It would have made a difference if there had been another woman to talk to. The physios pushed for me to be allowed to have my hairdresser in to do my hair, because every time I would get in the lift to go down to have physio and saw my grey roots I’d get upset.  I didn’t feel like myself because of my spinal cord injury and I didn’t look like myself either.

There’s a Patient Education programme in the hospital and a consultant come in to talk about sexuality but he dealt mainly with male issues, he didn’t have a clue about women.  So Drew arranged for somebody from Aspire to talk to just us ladies.  It was really nice to talk to a women with a spinal cord injury who was further down the road.  That’s what’s really good about people at Aspire – they really listen to what the patients are saying. 

I came home at the end of May.  I pushed for discharge because I couldn’t stand being on my own anymore.  My husband and family have been absolutely amazing; since I’ve been home my husband has had to do things that I’ve never thought he’d have to do. 

It’s now almost a year later and my hands are improving.  I can stand up and I’m working towards taking a few steps.  I can feed myself, brush my hair and put on my own make up.  I’m still in contact with Matthew via email.  We’re hoping to go to abroad at the end September, so I’ll be contacting him for advice then. 

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