Prior to my Spinal Cord Injury I was a very active person. After retiring from playing semi-professional football I took up running and cycling and would do both 4 times a week, running for an hour or so each time and cycling for 2-3 hours. However during a cycling ride in the Yorkshire Dales in early October 2015 I lost control of my bike on a downhill section coming off at high speed landing on the right side of my back.
As I lay on the ground I knew I was badly injured as I couldn’t feel or move anything below my waist and I was struggling to breathe. I later found out that I had broken 6 ribs, I had punctured my left lung, I had lacerated my liver and I had 6 spinal fractures including a burst fracture of the vertebrae at T12 level. This resulted in a blood clot compressing my spinal cord. I was operated on the following morning to remove the blood clot and fixate my spine from T10 to L2. I have had previous spinal surgery fixing L4 and L5 together. I had a second operation 10 days later as I had scraped bone fragments off my left forearm. I was transferred to Pinderfields Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Unit at the end of October 2015 and had daily physio. Although I had 1 daily physio session 5 days a week at Pinderfields I often went to do extra physio most days to try and build on what I was doing. I also used FES daily on my right shin muscle too. I was discharged on 6th January 2016.
At discharge I was able to walk in a fashion using walking sticks but only for very short periods. Whilst my quads came back quite well I had a very tight right hamstring muscle that prevented me from extending my leg fully. My gluteals were particularly weak as were my calf muscles so my walking gait was very poor. Whilst I could stand for short periods my balance was very poor and my ability to initiate movement was also very poor.
I enlisted the support of Sarah at MOTIONrehab® to help me maintain an “aggressive” type of physiotherapy that involved me doing functional strength based exercises 3 times a week alongside walking practice 2-3 days a week to try and improve my walking style, gait and stamina. The exercises focused on a lot of trying to build gluteal strength and to retrain me how to walk properly as my body wanted to recruit every other available muscle rather than using the correct ones in the correct order. Sarah has always been extremely supportive pushing me to complete the exercises correctly and encouraging me to work hard to achieve my goals. We enlisted the help of a personal trainer who is linked to MOTIONrehab® and has received specialist training from them to work with spinal cord injured clients. The major benefit of this for me is that he continuously encourages me to do the exercise correctly and he will really push me to achieve my goals. There have been many many times when I have struggled for motivation as progress has seemed so slow and other health issues have taken over but with the continued support and reinforcement from Sarah and the personal trainer I have worked very hard to continue with my rehab.
From very early on I realised you won’t get any kind of recovery unless you really work hard for it. They have adjusted the program as I have improved to push me further on and to increase my ability to carry out normal everyday activities. At 21 months post injury I can now walk around town with my partner and children, I can take my dog out for a decent walk and I am back at work. I have managed to run on a treadmill for 8 minutes without stopping and my glute strength and endurance is coming along well alongside my balance and ability to move around in small spaces such as the kitchen. Whilst movement is still challenging compared to what I was prior to my accident I feel I am on the right track to achieve as much recovery as I can.
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