For many people coming up to a landmark birthday, their bucket list might include climbing a mountain, taking on a marathon or perhaps going on the holiday of a lifetime. However, for 50-year-old Marina, from Bexley in Kent, all she set out to achieve by her 50th birthday was to be able to walk 50 paces and to prove to herself – and others – that she had defied the doctors by learning to walk again following a fall down her stairs at home which had left her wheelchair bound.
On 22nd July 2015, Marina got up in the middle of night to go downstairs to fetch a glass of water. A common enough thing for most of us to do but unfortunately for Marina it turned out to be life-changing moment when she lost her footing and fell down the stairs.
“It all happened so quickly at the time but immediately I couldn’t feel my legs and knew something was wrong,” says Marina. “Luckily my husband, Vijay, heard a loud crash and my screams and called for an ambulance.”
Marina was rushed to King’s College Hospital in South London and after numerous cat scans and tests, was told she had broken her back and some bone had dislodged into her spinal cord.
Doctors immediately operated to stabilise Marina’s back and she had two metal rods implanted to give her support. Despite their best efforts, the doctors told Marina she’d never be able to walk again. But Marina was determined to prove them wrong.
A few weeks later she was transferred to Stoke Mandeville hospital for specialist rehab but things took a turn for the worse when she contracted the MRSA bug. Before starting her recovery process, Marina had to have another operation to treat her wounds which had become highly infected by MRSA.
Marina was at Stoke Mandeville for just over four months, having been transferred to the facility on 4th August. During her time there, Marina worked with a team of experts to help build up her strength by attending hydrotherapy sessions and doing weight training. The aim was to help her stand again and be able to move around in her wheelchair.
Marina was discharged in a wheelchair on 11th December 2015 and she immediately contacted Neurokinex, a specialist rehabilitation centre, to seek their help. A fellow patient at Stoke Mandeville had told her about their work with people who have spinal cord injuries and Marina was hopeful they could help her.
“I wanted to continue with all the progress I had made as soon as possible. I’m an ‘all or nothing’ type person so even though I went back to my work at the NHS as a business support worker on January 12, I decided to leave in the March to concentrate on my rehabilitation.
“When I first came home from the hospital, I just wanted to get on with things and make progress. I didn’t even want a stair lift fitted so that I could get used to doing everything for myself. Initially I would drag myself up the stairs – now I am able to walk although coming down is a harder than going up. I did concede to have some handle bars dotted around my home to help me move around.”
Marina started at the Neurokinex rehabilitation centre in Watford in January this year.
“I knew it was going to be a long and difficult road but since joining Neurokinex I can honestly say that they have already improved my life for the better. Each session is completely different, which is what I love about them. They really push me to my limit but in a friendly and encouraging environment,” says Marina.
“I started off with build-up the work similar to what I had been doing at Stoke Mandeville, but then progressed to take part in a huge range of different activities which have all been specifically designed to help get the movement back in my legs such as walking with parallel bars and with a harness across the room. I’ve even done boxing sessions!”
One year on from her accident, Marina walked completely unaided thanks to help and support of Neurokinex. “I can’t thank the staff at Neurokinex enough for what they have done for me. They have completely given me back my confidence and I know that whilst there is still a long way to go before I’ll be walking properly again, with their support it’s definitely achievable.”
“My family and friends have also been very supportive through this process, particularly my husband who takes me to my Neurokinex sessions every Wednesday. He works as a contract manager and his company have been very understanding which is a great help.”
Looking ahead to the future:
Most recently Marina, has learnt to drive again and just received her licence back for the first time after the accident which she described as a great relief.
“Getting my licence back was just an amazing feeling. I feel like for the first time since the accident I’ve really got my independence back and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Marina is also looking forward to spending Christmas with her family this year, which is normally a big affair in her household.
“I absolutely love Christmas, but last year I was filled with mixed emotions when I came home from the hospital, feeling so drained from everything I wasn’t really up for celebrating,” says Marina. “We normally have a huge tree that goes right from floor to ceiling and I honestly can’t wait to get it decorated. It wasn’t something I thought would be possible this time last year, but now it will certainly be a real celebration for the whole family!”