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Thread: Melanie Reid of The Times (UK)

  1. #1

    Melanie Reid of The Times (UK)

    One of the journalists for one of the most prestigious papers in the UK has recently had a spinal injury in a horse riding accident. See her articles (3 so far) here:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com.../melanie_reid/

  2. #2

  3. #3
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    Melanie is doing a great service to all of us. I imagine her journalistic mindset prompts her to want to document her SCI journey when most of the rest of us just couldn't muster the energy or desire to do it. It's surreal reading these articles and thinking--I remember that or I felt that. I pray that she has a good recovery and continues to document her path.
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  4. #4
    I so wanted to do this. It's great that she is, what a great resource that could be for a scared new injury.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by betheny View Post
    I so wanted to do this. It's great that she is, what a great resource that could be for a scared new injury.
    I think she could be a great resource to the entire SCI community. Many of us have a hard time explaining what this is all about. Apparently, she also has a large readership.
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  6. #6
    Im sure when the time is right, she will become an amazing resource to the global SCI community. There is so much to write about. It never ends. The Times is the most reputable newspaper in the UK. Lets pray for a maximum recovery for Melanie first and continue to follow her work.

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  8. #8
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    Please keep posting these articles....and thanks
    2012 SCINetUSA Clinical Trial Support Squad Member
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  9. #9
    The Times has changed its site so I have had to copy and paste the article this time:

    Anxious, shaky and overwhelmed, I take my first outing from hospital

    Involuntary spasms don’t hurt, but must be a ghastly sight: were I a faller at Cheltenham, they would pull around the screens and send for a gun
    Times columnist Melanie Reid broke her neck and back after falling from a horse in April. Writing for the Magazine from rehab, she relates the brutal reality of her first trip away from hospital.

    When you’re driving along and you pass a charity minibus loaded with people in wheelchairs, you probably think… well, you probably don’t notice. At best you’ll think, “Isn’t it nice someone cares enough to take them on outings”; at worst you’ll think, “Why do these benighted folk have to clutter up the road when I’m in a hurry?”
    I know what you think, you see, because I used to be you, flying by in the fast lane.

    Now I’m that person strapped in the back of the minibus, anxious and shaky and overwhelmed on my first outing from hospital since my accident. We’re heading for Braehead, the monolithic shopping centre to the west of Glasgow, for a game of tenpin bowling and a pizza. Like a child, I am clutching a £20 note, which my husband gave me – my first contact with money in two months. I have no pocket to put it in (pockets are forbidden – they can cause pressure marks). “Give it to teacher to look after,” says one of my companions. So I do.

    For ordinary people, the journey is nothing, a five-minute drive from the hospital – a couple of sets of lights, three roundabouts. For me, it is both physically alarming – too bright, too jerky, too many seasicky corners – and also the harshest possible reminder of my new status as a helpless blob. Luckily my chair was loaded last; I’m at the back and no one can see the tears of fear and self-pity.

    I tell myself angrily not to be such a wimp and try to remember the scenes from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when Jack Nicholson led a breakout from the institution. I glare out of the window. Don’t give me sympathy, you able-bodied bastards; give me the opportunity for anarchy.

    But it’s so hard to accept a situation like this. The first exposure to the ordinary world, once you leave the cocoon of the spinal unit, is brutal. You are unloaded in the car park and fail to push yourself up an incline so slight you would never have noticed it in the past (cue more tears); and then suddenly you are besieged by all the things you used to be able to do effortlessly. People parking their cars, rushing into shops, walking around; browsing window displays full of clothes designed to look good when you’re standing up. Rather than feeling the open-eyed wonder of a baby seeing new vistas, I experience an aching sense of dislocation and loss.

    As it turns out, black humour saves the day for me. Deliciously, our trip to the bowling alley coincides with another outing of special needs adults – severe Down’s syndrome, people with growth deficit and serious mental handicap. They are clustered, like bees around honey, at the arcade games in the entrance lobby.

    They see me coming, tail-end Charlie of our group, and by far the weakest wheelchair-pusher. And they turn, entranced by the bizarre sight of a Ninja Turtle on wheels, encased in black and white plastic bracing from ears to groin, a urine bag peeking entrancingly from under the trousers. I give them my only defence, a dignified smile, but as I cross the threshold towards them my wheelchair becomes becalmed on the thick carpet. When I try harder to push, my body goes into ruthless spasms. I am stuck, utterly helpless. Ooooh, say the little people, forsaking the flashing lights and roaring motorbike simulators to gather around me. They inspect me with grave, uninhibited curiosity, fascinated by the alien twitching uncontrollably in front of them.

    In a flash, I realise what they have already instinctively identified: here is someone lower in the pecking order than us. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is indeed king. I am cast in a scene from an Alan Bleasdale play and there is nothing to do but appreciate the inky comedy of it all. Like kindly hobbits, the special needs people are still staring as a nurse wheels me away.

    I guess we all find salvation where we can. The encounter cheers me up enormously and I am able to endure the tenpin bowling, though buffeted by the noise, the lights, the crowds. Then, after weeks of hospital food, we patients relish the visit to Pizza Hut. In the minibus on the way back, full of good spirit, we exhort the physiotherapist at the wheel to lead a breakout and take us to the seaside.

    Should I have known beforehand about involuntary spasms as a result of spinal injury? No reason why at all. But since about three weeks ago, when they started with a vengeance, they now haunt me, overtaking my body like a poltergeist in some orgiastic horror movie.

    Days of small victories – successfully surviving a wash in a reclining electric shower chair (!); getting clean hair; mastering the triceps press in the gym – are cancelled out by the spasms that begin in my torso or legs, turn my hands into claws and start everything jerking. Legs suddenly shoot off wheelchair footrests or out of bed, my spine arcs backwards, hands crush the plastic cup they’re holding. Spasms are stimulated by the slightest thing – reaching for a cup of tea, a loud noise, a nurse moving the bedclothes – but the worst ones are when I am returned to bed after ten hours sitting in the wheelchair. As the hoist lowers me flat, I buck and jerk for a minute or so. It doesn’t hurt, just feels intensely disconcerting, but must be a ghastly sight: were I a faller at Cheltenham, they would immediately pull around the screens and send for a gun. I suspect the makers of porn films would do exactly the same.

    Spasms are caused by the body’s normal reflex system being short-circuited by one’s spinal injury. Reluctantly, I am coming round to accept that I will need short-term medication, which I have resisted so far on the grounds it can make you drowsy.

    But, as one of my son’s friends cheekily recommended, take all the drugs you’re offered. So this time maybe I will.

  10. #10
    And the next one:

    The worst thing about being in a wheelchair? You can’t get a proper hug

    This is not about sex – which right doesn’t seem so important – but about the terror of physical loneliness

    Times columnist Melanie Reid broke her neck and back after falling from a horse in April. Writing for the Magazine from hospital, she reflects on the isolation and challenges of life in a wheelchair.

    The worst thing about being in a wheelchair is that you can’t get a proper hug. Not one of those wonderful, life-enhancing, rib-rattling hugs, with which two people can make each other feel warm and loved and renewed. Instead, your loved ones must crane forwards over the spiky bits of your chair, leaning down to touch you, offering one awkward arm around the shoulder or a brief sideways kiss.

    Somehow this symbolises the physical isolation. Wheelchair-bound, you cannot rub shoulders, nor reach out and touch someone spontaneously, nor hold hands with ease, nor lean or jostle in fun. To make it worse, visitors, poignantly, pat you comfortingly on the thigh, and you cannot quite bring yourself to tell them that you feel nothing – and had you not witnessed the kind gesture, you would be unaware of it.

    So you live in your iron uniform, all angles and stay-away projections – your footrest, your handles, your wheels – and inside you just crave to be held by someone, to draw strength from the warmth of another body against your own. And your fear is that, even when you recover enough to go home, the paralysis means you may never again enjoy that simple pleasure. This is not about sex – which right now is as pressing a concept as getting on a manned flight to Pluto – but about the terror of physical loneliness.

    But if the desolation of wheelchairs preoccupies me, so too does the technical art of escaping from them. The new word that has taken over my life is “transferring”: the ability to get oneself out of the chair under one’s own steam. In the spinal unit’s gym, at any one time there are about 15 people sitting on benches and plinths, all practising their transfer skills.

    It is the goal to which we are all working, for if we can learn to move our own bodies from wheelchair to bed or shower chair or lavatory and back again, however slow and ungainly the process, then we will not need to be dependent on carers to come and hoist us when we go home. And take it from me: no one can overemphasise how massive an aspiration this is. There is a dedicated column to be written about the worst aspects of breaking your neck, but the reality of being permanently dependent on others, and being hoisted like a carcass, are high up the list.

    I am at the very earliest stages of learning how to transfer, battling post-trauma weakness and a paralysed torso, which will make it very difficult. Already, gym nerdiness has set in. On the triceps press, pushing down from my shoulders on either side of my body, I am only shifting about 25kg – and for my arms to be strong enough to lift myself out of a chair I need to be pumping three times that. My biceps are at present far too feeble to lift my legs and reposition them – it’s astonishing how heavy lifeless legs are – so I am working on them with the obsessiveness of a weedy adolescent in his bedroom.

    I am also relearning how to balance. The physiotherapists hoist me from my chair and place me in an unsupported sitting position on a bench, where I wobble frantically, spilling backwards – onto piles of precautionary pillows – like an old drunk on a Saturday night. Though unfortunately more attuned to the indignities than a drinker would be.

    At first, due to the paralysis above my waist, this exercise made me feel as if my head and shoulders were sitting atop a blancmange, but I am getting better at it, and can now roll my hands on giant exercise balls as I sit, or rock my weight from side to side using the heels of my hands as levers. On good days, I convince myself I am regaining some stomach muscles, but it will be impossible to know properly until my back brace comes off, hopefully in another three weeks (when my breasts, incidentally, will cease to be artificially elevated to just underneath my collar, where they elicit mixed reactions from the sexes. “It looks like a boob job that failed,” chortles a girlfriend; “Jesus, your tits look amazing, like they’re peeking over the garden fence,” exclaims a male ex-colleague.)

    Life continues to be measured in tiny victories. Do I bore you with them? I can now push my chair the length of the dreaded carpeted corridor. I can spin 180 degrees in one sedate manoeuvre, rather than a clumsy six-point turn. A plastic water bottle, which I could not grip, even empty, post-op, I can now happily swig full. I am back wearing two shoes after a blood blister on one sole, which required a huge, ghastly cripple boot to take pressure off it, has healed. I taught myself how to gather my toothbrush and paste on my lap and mount an expedition to the hand basin.

    The setbacks, when they come, are deeply frustrating. I have a bit of a chest infection. I’m on antibiotics, but it has temporarily weakened me. And today I had my first brush with the dreaded skin mark, the start of a pressure sore, the bogeyman that haunts all spinal injury patients. To drive the message home, we receive patient education classes at which they show us pictures of sores on the buttocks so huge you could put your fist in them.

    And suddenly I’m vulnerable. Inadvertently this afternoon, I spent several hours sitting on my catheter, and the underneath of my thigh bears the imprint. When the nurses discovered this, I was banished to bed early, threatened with compulsory box-rest like a lame horse, and now sit typing this under duress, propped in a jackknife position, my legs raised froggy fashion on 50 pillows in front of me, my laptop buried in my tummy, half the keyboard obscured by my hated collar. No war correspondent laboured under greater difficulties to finish a report than this. Damn catheters. Damn paralysis.

    Damn horses. Damn foolish, thrill-seeking middle-aged women. Damn everything.
    But, please God, forgive me my profanities and let me get to the gym tomorrow.

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