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Inspirational spinal injury survivor proves anything is possible
Today is Spinal Injuries Awareness Day. Organised by the Spinal Injuries Association, the aim of the day is to reach as many people as possible with the message that support is available to help people with spinal cord injuries to lead the lives they want, now and into the future.
We thought a good way to mark this awareness day would be to focus on someone with a spinal cord injury who, with sheer determination and grit, has achieved an incredible amount since her injury. Claire Lomas has raised significant sums of money for Spinal Research and raised public awareness about the impact of spinal cord injuries. Here’s her inspiring story.
Life changed forever for Claire in May 2007 when she was competing in the Osberton Horse Trials and had a freak accident. Her horse, Rolled Oats, clipped his shoulder on a tree and Claire was thrown forward, smashing into it, fracturing her neck, back and ribs and damaging her spinal cord.
In just one day, she went from being an independent woman with her own private chiropractic practice and a talented event rider, competing at an advanced level in British Eventing, to being paraplegic and unable to move her lower body or legs.
Surgeons put titanium rods in her back to try and fix her spine but they couldn’t repair the damage. After 10 days in intensive care, she was told by doctors that it was unlikely she’d ever walk again.
However, Claire was determined not to give up. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with”, was her response when her specialist informed her that she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Determined to prove the medical experts wrong, Claire spent just eight weeks in hospital – a very short amount of time considering how badly injured she was. And she endured months of gruelling physiotherapy and occupational therapy to adapt to being paraplegic. She set herself small short-term goals, such as getting in and out of the car and learning how to catheterise herself and knew in her heart that one day she’d walk again.
Just two years after her accident, Claire successfully completed the London Marathon walking two miles a day for 17 days wearing a special ‘Re-walk’ robotic suit which helps people with paraplegia to walk standing in an upright position. She was escorted across the finishing line at The Mall in central London by three mounted members of the Household Cavalry who gave her a guard of honour. She received 14 medals from other marathon participants as a symbolic recognition of her achievement and awarded the Virgin Trophy by Holly Branson. In total, she raised a massive £210,000 for Spinal Research. Overall, with one challenge after another, Claire has raised in excess of half a million pounds…!
Not content with her position as a role model, motivational speaker, campaigner, fundraiser and mother, Claire has embarked on other challenging activities including learning to ride a motorbike and a hand bike. In April and May 2013, she decided to embark on a 400-mile hand bike ride, visiting schools along the way and raising more funds for Spinal Research and the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Claire’s feats are nothing short of incredible and the strength and courage of many individuals with spinal cord injuries is proof that you can adapt to serious, life-changing injuries.
Of course, it’s important to remember that each person’s recovery from a spinal cord injury is different. Even people who’ve damaged their spinal cord in the same place can experience different types of loss of movement and sensation. But stories like Claire’s are truly inspiring and if it can help raise awareness of spinal cord injury and fundraise for more research, then that’s a very good thing indeed.
To find out more about the work of the Spinal Injuries Association, visit www.spinal.co.uk.