Before all my trouble with my back I was very active person who loved to run, climb mountains, surf and travel.  Unfortunately, over the last four years all the fun was eroded away living with a bulging disc with increased pain and periods were I could hardly walk.  It all came to a head last summer when my disc prolapsed resulting in emergency surgery but only once my red flag symptoms were recognised as being serious.  The delay in my surgery meant that my cauda equina syndrome diagnosis was more serious and was told that I may never walk again and could permanently loose bladder and bowel function.

At first, I was admitted to my local hospital which does not have a neurosurgery department.  There was a 30-hour delay in my diagnosis as red flag symptoms were not recognised and the MRI unit was closed at weekends.  Once it was recognised how serious my condition was, I was transferred to Glasgow to the Neurosciences Department at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.  The medical and nursing care I received there was first class and underwent microdiscectomy surgery immediately.

My diagnosis was cauda equina syndrome with foot drop due to the prolapsed disc interrupting the spine and nerves that control the bottom half of the body.  My prognosis following surgery was good with immediate improvement in nerve function.  Accessing heath care through the pandemic has been difficult and required persistence and patience and although I had what is classified as a non-traumatic spinal injury, I still haven’t been physically seen by anyone as all follow-up support from the physiotherapist and consultant has been over the phone, which at times made me feel very isolated.

I am now 10 months post surgery and still have nerve damage which means I walk with a limp and have developed more pain as I move more.  Every day since my surgery I have tried to be positive and focus on what I can do and push my boundaries, which has seen me return to doing everyday things such as drive, shop, cook and clean.  I have also returned to work (virtually) and completed a sponsored walk.

Spinal Injury Scotland has been there for me throughout my recovery.  Having been home less than a week I heard about their work through a newspaper story of a woman with cauda equina syndrome and although it was 6.30pm on a Friday they answered my call to their helpline and have kept in touch with me ever since. 

I have reached out to them when I am at my lowest and they have checked in on me on good days too.  Having people to speak to with similar or other spinal injuries provided a shoulder to cry on, as well as perspective, and that what I was going through mattered.  Without their support I would have felt alone and overwhelmed standing at the bottom of my recovery mountain but they reached out a hand of support steadying my assent, holding me up when I was down and cheering me on when I charged ahead.

Who knows what the future holds, especially due to the pandemic.  So I focus on each day improving my physical and mental health, loving my family and enjoying my new life.

The hardest thing I have faced over this time is not the way people stare at me as I walk funny, or the flash backs of the time I spent in my local hospital but rather the recent realisation that I may not get ‘back to normal’ however hard I try.  Due to this I developed anxiety but am lucky to have free counselling service at work which is helping my recovery.