Pioneering rehab helps paralysed mum-of-three from Houghton Conquest gain confidence in her ‘new body’ following riding accident Image supplied by Action Group

On 29 September 2018, life changed in an instant for Sarah Wilson, 35, from Houghton Conquest, as she fell from her horse while out riding on the farm where she lives.

Instant Paralysis

Sarah knew something was terribly wrong when she couldn’t move to fetch her phone from her bum-bag. She lay on the ground for an hour and half, before her colleague’s three year old daughter eventually found her and sought help. An ambulance was called, and Sarah was airlifted to hospital. Sarah said:

“It was the most surreal experience I’ve ever had. Despite my phone being in my bum bag, I simply couldn’t move.

“I was conscious for the whole time and I remember everything so clearly.”

“When they called the helicopter, I knew it must be something serious.”

Sarah was taken by Air Ambulance to Addenbrookes hospital. After several tests and scans she was told a severe break in her neck had caused damage to her spinal cord & this was causing the paralysis.

Despite wearing protection, Sarah had broken her neck in the one-inch gap between the bottom of her hat and the top of her body protector, leaving her paralysed from the chest down.

She needed emergency surgery and then following complications was placed into a coma for several weeks.

Moving to Stoke Mandeville

A few months later, Sarah was moved to the specialist spinal cord injury hospital at Stoke Mandeville. Here she spent the next 14 months as part of her rehabilitation.

“Being at Stoke Mandeville was a difficult time in my life, but the people I met were just so amazing. As a mum to three young children, my biggest worry was for them of course and what the future might hold as I just wanted to be the best mum I could be.

“Life in the hospital was like being part of this big dysfunctional family, but we all understood each other through the hard times. It was inspiring to be around others going through a similar journey.”

Towards the end of her time at Stoke Mandeville, Sarah heard from a fellow patient about Neurokinex.

“He was chatting to me about how life-changing their rehab was and how it was the perfect transition once you come out of hospital.

“It was a relief to hear as I’d been worried about what the next phase would be once I would be able to go home. My physio found out more and referred me to Neurokinex for six free sessions as part of its Step Up Scheme.

“This was a massive weight off my shoulders. I found the discharge process quite overwhelming but it was good to know I had somewhere to go.”

Sarah Wilson Image supplied by Action Group

Pioneering rehab and building back confidence

Sarah was discharged from hospital and started at the Neurokinex Hemel Hempstead facility.

“I managed three sessions before Christmas and I instantly felt at ease by the team. They were all so friendly and it was great to be able to have something to focus on.”

Sarah had to go back into hospital for an operation in January and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Putting a stop to her rehab until July when Neurokinex could re-open. Since then she’s been going twice a week and seen enormous gains in her ability and confidence.

As part of her rehab, Sarah is receiving Neurokinex’s electrical muscle stimulation treatment combined with its activity based rehab programme to work below her point of injury.

“What I love about Neurokinex is how the sessions make me feel. I’m so much stronger now, both physically and mentally. There are so many things before that I would have taken for granted like brushing my girls hair and doing my make up.

“Now, thanks to Neurokinex and the work they are doing with me, I’m able to do these again. It’s such a confidence boost! Even something simple like having a hot drink was lost to me after my accident.

“I was scared to pick up a hot drink but now I’ve built up enough strength in my arms and hands to do this myself. Neurokinex has truly given me the confidence in my new body.”

Looking to the future

“It’s really hard to say what the future might hold, but for now I’m really focusing on being able to transfer out of my wheelchair by myself. This one step brings me much closer to my independence.

“Ultimately, I’d love to be able to drive again. As a mum this would mean the world to me as I could go once again do simple tasks for my family, like shopping and the school run. Who knows, watch this space.”