We've got six children between us, and it was tough on them, me being in hospital so long.  They couldn't come and see me that easily, but we did speak on the phone a lot.  All told, I was in Stoke Mandeville for 11 months and I just wanted to get home, get the family back together, get on with life.

In that first week back, the children went out of their way to help - I think they were telling each other they mustn't do anything to make mum upset, that they had to keep everything tidy.  But it didn't last long!  I remember them sitting there watching me struggle with the hoover, trying to plug it in, and instead of jumping up to help they said, "How long are you going to be?"  After that, they literally just treated me like nothing had happened.  In a way that's my doing; I'm quite a stubborn person, and a glass half full person too.  As a family we work through the tough times, we're very capable, and it's stood us in good stead.

As a family we work through the tough times

It might take me longer, but I do everything that I did before; ironing, gardening, cooking, taking the dogs out, acting as counsellor, doctor, laundry and bank to the children.  I've found that you have to plan ahead a bit more, and you have to have a bit of patience.  When hoovering, I've had to give up the Dyson and now use a Hettie - like the Henry, but in pink!  I push with one hand, hoover with the other, and then swap to get around.  My real eureka moment came when I first did the washing again.  I think I smiled all the way from taking it out the machine to hanging it up, and then I went in and phoned up a couple of friends to tell them what I'd done!  It sounds crazy, but my friends understood - they said it was like having the old Jan back.

Jan, in her wheelchair, hanging out the washingI soon had all the practical things sorted, but the one thing I found it hard to get my head around was bodily functions not working how they used to.  I used to cry when I had to get changed all the time.  But once you get your head around it, you see it's part of being paralysed, and it's OK.  Like anything, it's about how you deal with it, you have to know it's not your fault.  

I used to be a perfectionist, but I'm more accepting and relaxed now.  I get nerve pain and spasms, and when I get worked up it really hurts me - so I'm a calmer person as a result!  And I've also come to realise that you shouldn't worry about the stuff you can't do, and be thrilled about the things you can.

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