Spinal Injury: A Mum’s perspective
I've written a few articles about my spinal injury and the disability that came with it. But a life changing event doesn't only affect an individual. So one of the most supportive people in my life, my Mum, wrote a piece that recalls the events from a different perspective...
1st September 2004 around 18:05 was the day our lives changed forever, but not necessarily in a bad way.
It was only a few days before they all went back to school and Craig had survived the summer holidays remarkably unscathed. No mean feat for a boy that had spent the six weeks jumping off garage roofs into bushes and generally carrying out all manner of Jackass type stunts! I’d gone to collect my daughter from work and Craig was at his friend’s house. On the way back, we got a call from a neighbour asking us to come home. We were literally 5 minutes away but he wouldn’t say why we had to come home.
My first thought was “that little bugger’s probably set the house on fire”! As we rounded the corner I told my daughter I couldn’t see any smoke so it was looking good so far. But then a driver stopped and told us we couldn’t go any further because there’d been an accident. At that moment I got that feeling you get when your stomach falls out your arse. Oh God! What’s he done now!!
Craig was lying in the road with people around him and the ambulance crew attending him. He’d been knocked off his bicycle. He was conscious, talking and alert so I thought OK it’s not too bad then. The crew were telling him to keep still and he didn’t move and inch. Now we know why. So off to A&E we went, luckily only 5 minutes up the road from our house.
So, they examine Craig and at this time his arms are flying all over the place and the morphine is making him curse like a squaddie. He’s telling them to get him up off the floor, calling people all the names under the sun. I was quite embarrassed by his carrying on. Now, this is where it all goes a bit hazy for me because I think shock kicked in.
He went by ambulance to John Radcliffe hospital and I followed by car. I recall them telling me he’d damaged his spinal cord and broken his femur, other than a few cuts he had no other injuries really. Sod’s law he had to break his neck hey! When they asked for consent to operate they mentioned all the risks. My only comment was don’t let him be worse than he already is. If something goes wrong and his brain is starved of oxygen I don’t want you to bring him back. A wheelchair he could cope with but brain damage is a whole other ball game, he wouldn’t be Craig any more. I also knew he wanted to donate his organs as we’d discussed it in the past so gave consent to that. I then got shown around the place, where I’d be staying etc. and can’t recall any of this at all.
He had the op, apparently fixing the leg took longer to perform than the wiring in his neck as the leg bone was so strong. All that milk he drank growing up I suppose. He was sent to the kids’ ICU and we had a few issues, collapsed lung, having to sedate him for MRI scan because he was terrified, nightmares, tears, anger, frustration. At one stage he told us to stick him in a wheelchair and take him home. All perfectly understandable but unbearable as a parent being utterly helpless to comfort your child. I couldn’t even hold him properly because he was in bed. The nurses and doctors were brilliant though. The care they gave was fantastic. But being told he’d never walk again was the hardest thing I’d ever had to hear. I cried for at least a week.
After about 2 months he was transferred to Stoke Mandeville and onto the brand new children’s ward. He was the only one there and even when other kids did come along they were in and out quite quickly. Thank goodness he had a good rapport with the nurses, especially Sara as her husband was in a wheelchair. We took him home for Xmas but Boxing day he took a turn for the worse and had developed pneumonia so it was back to A&E. This time he was put in adult ICU and they tried to carry out consultations with him without me present. I think not! The care on that ICU ward was terrible. He had autonomic dysreflexia at one point and they tried to say it was because he’d had a reaction to meds. When he was transferred back to Stoke they said they were glad to have him “home”, then apologised to me. I was actually relieved he was back there too, where they knew what they were doing.
He made good progress there and was able to go back to school the following September, albeit another school where it had been adapted for wheelchairs. He did well with his GCSE’s but really came into his own with the rugby. I honestly believe it was a God send to him.
I recall telling him once that so long as he had his brain he could do anything. And he’s proved me right. If I could have one wish it would be that his injury was lower down so he didn’t need a full-time carer, could drive a car and get himself in and out of his chair.
During his time in kids ICU I remember reading a newspaper story about an 8 year old girl who’d tripped over a helter skelter mat at a fun fair. She broke her neck and died. Unreal that something so simple could have caused that. I thought Craig lucky to be alive then and how lucky we were to still have him.
He’s still our Craig, he and his sister still play fight and annoy each other even though they’re 31 and 28. He’s having an injurversary this year to mark half his life in and half out of the chair. Bit weird, but then he’s never been normal.
I’m proud of you boy, love you to the moon and back, Ma xx