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Melanie Reid of The Times (UK)

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    Fly Pelican Fly: thanks for posting these articles. They are a hard but compelling read.

    About Melanie's injury level, I think she mentioned in the very first article, back in April, that it was a C6 fracture, or at least so they thought back then.


      Any New Articles

      Are there any new articles she has written since your last post?


        Don’t I deserve a break from being so brave? I’m not Nelson blooming Mandela

        Melanie Reid broke her neck and back after falling from a horse. Writing from hospital, she wonders why she is turning down opportunities to escape the spinal unit

        How do you know when you have become truly institutionalised? What tells you that you have Stockholm syndrome, and prefer to stay with your jailers rather than get away from them? I don’t know the diagnosis, can’t analyse the tipping point, but I rather think that whatever the symptoms are, I’ve got them. Like Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who remained in her kidnapper’s cellar for eight years, I have had numerous chances to escape from my prison recently, and I’ve been turning them all down.

        All recent offers from friends to take me places have been declined. Like an old lag who reoffends within hours of release, I prefer to remain here in the spinal unit: miserable, lonely, head buried in a book, all the time actively avoiding freedom. I have refused the chance to go in a taxi for both meals and movies; I’ve body-swerved the chance to show off my transferring skills by getting into friends’ cars. I cancelled plans to go home for a day last weekend, and then found all sorts of excuses, claiming, depending to whom I was talking, that it was because I didn’t want my husband to have to do too much driving, or that I was still feeling the effects of a urinary infection.

        Truth is, I just wanted to stay here. However desolate I feel at weekends; regardless of the fact there is no gym, no therapy, no kindred spirits, none of the release that exercise brings from the chronic burning on my seat bones, I feel safe here. In my crippled world, I want to shrink to the size of a pea and be left alone. Everything outside represents too big a challenge. I crave a place where I am secure, anonymous; all choice, initiative and responsibility removed from me. A rehab ward on a hospital offers most of these things. Sausage casserole or vegetable sweet and sour for supper – that’s the limits of decision-making I seek. I’ve never felt this passive, this scared; never been reduced to such a docile state.

        I whinge and sniffle to myself. Aren’t the physical challenges I face in the gym Monday to Friday big enough, without needing more? Please, don’t I deserve a break from being so brave all the time? I’m not Nelson blooming Mandela; I can’t aspire to all that soaring Invictus cobblers: “Out of the night that covers me/ Black as the pit from pole to pole/ I thank whatever gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul.” Unconquerable, huh? Master of my fate? Captain of my soul? I wish.

        But early one morning last week, long before the first dirty light appeared above the curtains, in the exquisite purgatory of a paralysed dawn that is for us to know and the rest of you only to guess at, I forced myself to address the situation.
        Why so cowardly, woman? Why so weak? Susan’s right – she always is – when she leans over me in the gym and says we can’t be doing with all these tears and snotters. The nurses, once so helpful but now begrudging when they help me with catheters, are right when they make it clear I should be doing more myself. It’s up to me.

        I’ve always been good at being rational (it comes from growing up with a hugely irrational father). I could see that I crave the shelter of the institution for reasons of insecurity; disappointment; fear; a failure to face up to the new me. Deep down, I had convinced myself I wouldn’t go home for an overnight stay until I didn’t need carers any more. I only wanted to go home when I was “better”. Normal. To prove to everyone that the great coper had won through.

        Well, hey, surprise, surprise, what a stupid fantasy. Nothing is more screamingly apparent than how dependent I am, even after more than six months’ rehab. I cannot lift my own legs onto the bed – or at least, not without a half-hour struggle – cannot fully dress or undress myself, nor manage my bowels or showers alone.

        But having realised I was stuck in every way, mentally and physically entombed by my own unrealistically high expectations, I decided that the only thing to do was face up to it. And so here is my news: I am going home for an overnight this coming weekend; and from next weekend I am determined to begin a routine of going home every Friday night, returning on Sunday night. It will mean carers and nurses coming to my house, in the beginning at least, to help me. And it will mean exposing my poor, terrified husband to what he is stuck with for the rest of his life, but so be it.

        For this, no one should call me remotely brave. This is not my indomitable spirit; this is merely advancing the inevitable.

        There’s another thing, of course, and that’s the fact that starting to go home for overnights feels like the death knell to hopes of walking again. The sleeping elephant has stirred at the news. Is this, he wonders, the signal of the beginning of the end; the sign that progress in the gym has stalled. “Look, exactly what’s upsetting you?” asks Susan. “You’re still making progress.” (This is Susan-speak for get-a-grip-and-stop-being-such-a-girlie. As one tomboy dealing with another, she knows what buttons to press.)
        To shut me up, she puts my weaker leg in a calliper and gets me to stand up on the parallel bars. I manage to stand, erect and unsupported, for maybe 15 seconds before the pain and spasm and breathlessness around my torso muscles make me jackknife. I tell you, Ed Miliband’s not the only one to identify a serious case of the “squeezed middle”.

        So I decide to get a notebook and record how long I can stand every day, then try to beat it the next. And to take the cheerful advice of a farmer who lost an arm in a baler – probably the sort who carried the limb back to the house, rang 999 and said, “Sorry to bother you” – and tells me he’s got an adapted Subaru Impreza and I should get myself one for Christmas. Well, being rational, maybe next Christmas…


          A soldier’s story

          ‘Stuart has morphed into a laconic tetraplegic playboy, outrageously cheeky, chatting up all the girls’

          As best I can, let me tell you the story of Stuart Collins. Stuart, a 19-year-old Scottish soldier, was up a ladder atop a high wall in Helmand province, giving cover to his patrol – “overwatch”, he calls it – when the sniper’s bullet hit. It sneaked under the side of his body armour and passed through his spinal cord at the top of his chest. With his usual caustic logic, Stuart reckons the Afghan was a rubbish shot – “If he was any good, I’d be dead, wouldn’t I?”

          As he lay on the ground, fully conscious, he remembers bantering with his fellow soldiers. He thought he was dying, but decided he might as well go with a smile on his face. His mates told him he’d be all right; that he’d be in the pub in no time.

          He was helicoptered to Camp Bastion, thence to Birmingham, and by the middle of last March was transferred to the high-dependency ward at the spinal injuries unit in Glasgow, to be nearer his family. Which is where I first heard his voice, an argumentative, confused refrain in the night, demanding to be allowed to get up and escape from the horror of paralysis.

          Which is also, I suppose, where all of us here come in. By the time you read this, Stuart will be leaving the spinal unit after eight months, and those of us who are left behind are already in mourning. How can we live without this rough, tough teenager, as wild as a semi-domesticated polecat, as deadpan sharp as any stand-up comedian, as mature as he is vulnerable? The 6ft 4in, 15st soldier has morphed into a skinny, laconic, blue-eyed tetraplegic playboy, who dances around the gym on the back wheels of his wheelchair like a trick cyclist, outrageously cheeky, chatting up all the girls, reducing everyone to stitches with his antics. That is, of course, when he isn’t indulging in the soldier’s favourite game of mooching, fag in hand, at the door, trading profane insults with anyone brave enough to take him on. If you have read Patrick Hennessey’s wonderful book The Junior Officers’ Reading Club, you will immediately recognise in him the spirit of the modern British squaddie.

          It was during the Pope’s visit to Glasgow that Stuart suddenly appeared, as if in a vision, a mitre fashioned from a pillowcase stuffed with cardboard upon his head, his body draped in a white blanket, carrying an aluminium brush handle as a staff. He glided regally up and down the ward handing out fragments of sliced white bread. “Bless you, my child,” he said to each and every one of us, and I can still hear the gales of laughter following him up the corridor. You simply don’t hear sounds like that in hospital.

          It was Stuart who asked all the women in the gym how much they would charge to lap-dance; Stuart who regularly soaked the nurses when they went to help him shower; Stuart who wants a Porsche as his mobility car; Stuart who spun up the ward screaming, “Fire! Everyone out! This one’s for real,” when the alarm was tested. It was Stuart who invented wheelbarrow races for the paralysed; who decided to practise commando crawl across the gym, dragging his legs behind him, and of course wriggled straight out of his tracksuit bottoms, exposing himself to the world, and leaving the physiotherapists initially too helpless with laughter to cover him up; and it was Stuart who, despite his impaired hands, beat everyone in the shooting competition. A man-child: incorrigible, vulgar, cynical, heroic.

          Stuart does not dwell on tragedy. He was self-evidently a very good soldier – bright, charismatic, shrewd. He had – still has – leadership potential. With Stuart on your team, as they once said of Zinedine Zidane, I bet you felt you had 12 men on the field. His mother says he’d wanted to join the Army since he was 4; he signed up at 16. “I loved it,” he says. “The guys are like family; we had great laughs.” But his best mate died in an IED attack two weeks before his own accident, and, much as he desperately misses soldiering, reckons he’s lucky to be alive. He is off to the military rehab centre Headley Court, where he will learn to drive; and then the Army, which he says has been very good to him, is putting him through university. He granted me permission to write about him, because his rehab has been such a success, and he wants to spread the message that if people with spinal injuries push themselves, and stay positive, they can achieve so much. Me, I’m just proud to be his mate. In gym banter, he’s brutal to me, calls me an upper-class caviar-eating snob (I’ve promised him faithfully, daaahling, that he can come to my next dinner party if he doesn’t wear a shell suit). In private, when he’s seen me in tears, he has been kindness itself.

          For every fatality in Afghanistan, there are many more Stuarts, the ones we don’t hear about, young soldiers having to rebuild a new life due to disability. That’s why Help for Heroes is such a wonderful cause. And that’s why I’m proud to tell you the following: last January, before my accident, I went to an Apples & Pears health and fitness retreat in Dorset, where I was trained by two former Marines, men who were together in the very first helicopter to land on Iraqi soil during the British invasion in 2003. Both subsequently had to quit the service due to damage to their knees sustained by their extraordinary efforts in the war. Like Stuart, they were young men broken for Britain, and I found them inspirational. After I broke my neck, Katie Duncan, owner of Apples & Pears, decided – along with a group of my friends – to mount a special three-day charity fitness event, with all profits going to Help for Heroes, the Royal Marines Association and, because of me, spinal injuries charities. A large number of people attended the event in August, lost lots of weight, and, I’m delighted to say, raised £4,000 for the charities. Even Stuart won’t be able to slag off me “and your fat toff pals” about that. But God knows the bugger will try.


            You will obey

            At its best, the NHS treats everybody the same. At its worst, it is a patronising, didactic monolith

            Times columnist Melanie Reid broke her neck and back after falling from a horse in April. Writing for the Magazine from hospital, she begins to empathise with patients who won’t quit smoking.

            You see them, living cadavers, outside every hospital in the land, but this man is particularly gruesome. He’s outside the main entrance to the neurology and ear, nose & throat building, apparently oblivious to the fierce north wind funnelling round the tower block, sucking on a cigarette like a condemned man. Which perhaps he is. Shockingly, given the cold, he’s wearing a cotton dressing gown, and his feeding tube, dangling from his nose, bumps like an empty executioner’s rope on his chest. The cannula for his intravenous drip projects from the back of the hand holding the cigarette. His face, his hair and his hands are of a consistent grey pallor. I sip my drink from the relative warmth of the coffee bar, watching him from behind glass as if he were a zoo exhibit, and try to guess his age. He looks about 80; in reality he’s probably early fifties, my age. If he were only holding a scythe, you’d think he were on his way to a fancy-dress party.

            He’s joined by a younger woman, also in a thin dressing gown and with bare legs, who has a tracheotomy on her throat and is also, unbelievably, smoking a cigarette. If the tracheotomy is uncuffed, I am told – that is, if it allows air to pass down from her mouth – some of the smoke will reach her lungs. Like something from a low-budget horror movie, the two tread an area just outside the entrance doors already slummy with fag butts. They testify both to the power of nicotine and the determination of the addict. How else, without some element of perverted bravery, could people parade for us in this state? Maybe my sense of humour has got far too black – I suspect it has – but I find it almost funny.

            At what point does the human right of the middle classes to pass judgment on such tragic figures outweigh someone’s unalienable human right to smoke themselves to death? Gnarly issues, especially so for me, because I’m fighting every waking moment to regain full health, and my only serious addiction is to caffeine. But despising someone for being weak and for wasting public money is hard to do when I’ve languished for months at the taxpayer’s expense as a result of my addiction to a risky affluent sport. If I fall off a horse and I’m costing the NHS thousands of pounds a month to keep and treat, I’m not sure I’m any different from someone who makes a similarly dangerous lifestyle choice to smoke cigarettes. Maybe the benighted smokers who haunt the entrances make us uncomfortable simply because they remind us of weaknesses that we all possess. In a perverse sort of way, I admire them for having a last, outrageous kick at the do-gooders.

            At its best, the most wonderful thing about the NHS is that it treats everyone the same – there are no deserving and undeserving. At its worst, it is a patronising monolith. All naive, clean-living souls who enter hospital should know that everywhere, in external nooks and crannies, nurses, cleaners, auxiliaries, porters and probably, for all I know, doctors gather in secret huddles, shivering over forbidden cigarettes. One late-night group at a Glasgow hospital was attacked by a fox, which tried to bite their ankles, but they dared not report the incident because some of the secret smokers were of such seniority. So of course it goes on: a surreptitious mass defiance of the edict that one should obey all rules and cast off addiction as a sin, along with germs and dangerous practices such as walking or breathing. Just be good, switch off your brain and obey the notices that almost literally wallpaper hospitals. Join the stop-smoking programme. Follow the “six-step handwashing technique” at all sinks – with easy-to-follow pictures for the illiterate. Wet hands before using soap and turn off taps using elbows. (Why? How do they know our elbows aren’t filthy? What happens if my elbows don’t reach?) Enter all bathrooms only after reading: “Safety first: wet floor – danger of slipping”. Disobey at your peril “This shower must be run for three minutes before use”. Remember “All electrical appliances must be checked by the hospital-maintenance team before use”. Oh, and “All shower chairs should be checked before use – armrests, backrests, seats and footrests”.

            Like, as if, really, truly, yeah! Tell that to a hard-pressed, poorly paid, exhausted nursing auxiliary at 6am as they near the end of another marathon 12½-hour shift.

            Sometimes in hospital, I figure that even if you don’t die from the injury you come in with, you’ll die an awful slow, tedious agonising death from safety-notice fatigue. And to be honest, if I didn’t think I had enough problems already, I’d take up smoking just as a form of protest at continually being told what to do.

            On the personal front, ease of piddling has been a preoccupation. I have given up the intermittent self-catherisation. I had been fighting on too many fronts, exhausted by a combination of interrupted nights and time wasted transferring laboriously in and out of bed during the day. A quick pee was never meant to take half an hour and expend vast amounts of energy. The alternative is a tiny hole tapped into the bladder above the pubic bone, with a tube and a tap on it. I’m thinking of using one of the brass ones we’ve just had taken out of the kitchen, but they might be a bit stiff for my feeble fingers. I’m to get the procedure next week.
            The good news is my quads, my thigh muscles, are definitely getting stronger. First of all, in the hydrotherapy pool, I found it much easier to lock my knees and stand. And then on the standing frame in the gym, with my trousers rolled up to mid-thigh so I could see my scrawny, white-stockinged schoolgirl knees in the mirror, I watched the muscles locking my knees – and holding and holding. Plus – and this is quite exciting – I noticed yesterday that the proprioception in my left leg is receding. If I flex my left foot, I can now feel it moving for the first time, rather than have to see it happening to know there is movement. Now that is almost worth a celebratory fag.


              One step forward

              Learning how to look at how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have to go, is a philosophical and practical challenge
              Ask anyone who ever tried to design a human robot and they’ll tell you: walking is astonishingly complicated. Ask any toddler, legs buckling under them continually, and if they could, they’d say the same. Ask me, white-knuckled, balancing precariously on the parallel bars, and I won’t hear the question, because I’m concentrating so hard on what I’m trying to do. Complicated doesn’t begin to describe it.

              Walking involves the precision interplay of quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, hip flexors and abdominal muscles. It involves core strength and balance and, rather crucially, a nervous system connected to the brain. I’m a little short of all these things right now. But I’ve got to the starting point. I’m standing at the parallel bars without the aid of a machine. My shoulders are back and my hips are forward. My buttocks – such that remains of them, for I have lost so much weight I am now more Peter Crouch than JLo – are clenched.

              Another person I am definitely not is Olga Korbut. My right leg is heavily strapped in a full-length calliper, to make the knee bear weight. My left knee is holding for short periods of time: I can order it to lock and sense it do so, but then feel its strength fade. My hands are taking lots of my weight through the bars. Oh, and there are two brilliant physiotherapists, one in front, one behind, hands hovering ready to catch me. Sadly the only thing that resembles precision interplay in this circus is between the two of them. Together, they tell me how to shift my weight to swing the calliper leg forwards, and I start to shuffle the left to follow, but exhaustion and dizziness intervene and I have to sit down again. It’s half a step, Jim, but not as you’d know it; I can lay claim only to powerlessness and fatigue. I have lost automatic response, lost those neurological pathways – the very thing the toddler is developing – which co-ordinate movement. And rebuilding them is a mammoth task. Is there any chance I can pull it off?

              As regular readers will have noticed, I am, once again, making the sorry mistake of looking forwards, not backwards. A toddler, instinctively, contentedly, builds on what he or she did half an hour before. And tries again. Me, I find myself lying in bed at night analysing over and again what happened, and beating myself up for not doing better, and wondering where I will be in two months’ time, instead of congratulating myself for what I have achieved.

              A former patient in the spinal unit, the inspirational Peter Wrate, e-mails to say that during his rehab he used to visualise himself in the foothills of a peak he had climbed a couple of times. The approaches were hard, loose scree and boulders. He tried not to look up and think, “Oh my God, look how far it is.” Instead, he would attend to his footfall, stop every now and then catch his breath and look down and think, “I’ve come all this way already.” (I think of the last mountain I walked, Ben Lomond, and remember uneasily that I gave up 500ft from the top, on the basis that I’d been up it before and I was holding back my teenage companions, who had scampered ahead. Pretty rubbish omen, that.)

              But then Peter – mountaineer, ski instructor, horseman, student of Zen – is an exceptional man, and I’m sure he will not mind if I quote his wise advice to me to start “living more lightly”. “Rupert Sheldrake the philosopher writes of the ‘privilege of consciousness’ – how we are probably the only species that knows that we exist. An elephant knows how exactly to be an elephant – but we don’t know how to be just a human being. We think outside the box. And maybe that’s the trouble. So, with that privilege comes immense responsibility. That consciousness we have, it soars far beyond us, anticipating, judging. It is unfettered and in the situation you and I have found ourselves in, we need to live more lightly; deliberately and consciously we need to come back to just being, like our beautiful horses munching hay in the stable. Not have an opinion about ourselves, our appearance, our pain, the awkwardness of movement, the indignities… It’s simple, but it’s definitely not easy.”

              It definitely isn’t, especially after the week I’ve had. Claw fingers spilling the remnants of a mug of tea onto my laptop charger, so that it sizzled and sparked and died, was one thing. Events went further downhill when I had my bladder pierced under local anaesthetic, a minor operation that is common practice for paralysed people, but nonetheless both unpleasant and deeply depressing. Basically an alternative exit is created from the bladder, just above the pubic bone, so that it can be easily emptied and risks of constant infection are minimised. The suprapubic catheter, say the people who’ve never had one, is a way of making life in general easier and is reversible should normal bladder control return.

              Which is all well and good, but there’s nothing quite like the sensation of something drilling into a vital organ to reinforce to you that yes, indeedy, you really are a seriously handicapped person. An invalid, ho ho ho. So it feels like a regressive step. Besides, because I have sensation returning to my body, it hurt like hell when the anaesthetic wore off, waves of pain that caused that familiar side-effect of crying in bed – ears filled with water – and the choice of painkiller is still between wimpy old paracetamol and an unbelievably evil drug called tramadol, which acts like morphine and makes you go grey and nauseous and confused, so it’s paracetamol every time.

              The next day I was anxious about whether the new catheter was draining properly, which led to monitoring by the nurses, which highlighted my usual chronic low blood pressure and slow heart rate (44), which led in turn to a precautionary ECG but the portable machine didn’t work. During all this palaver, I lay staring at my punctured abdomen, wondering if this constitutes the future. Boy, it’s hard to live lightly.


                Melanie Reid’s life support

                The dedicated, talented people helping her to rebuild body and soul after her horse-riding accident

                By rights, I shouldn’t be the journalist writing this piece. It’s a bit like embedding reporters with the troops in Afghanistan, and then criticising them for filing subjective stuff saying our boys are such heroes.

                Look at it another way, and I couldn’t be better qualified to write about one of the best spinal injuries unit in Britain – and one of the top three in Europe – simply because I’m a real-life, long-term consumer. I arrived at the door dreadfully injured last April, and am now in the final months of my rehabilitation. Embedded in the unit – literally – I have witnessed the good, the bad and the genuinely amazing.

                The Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injury Unit (QENSIU) serves all of Scotland and the north of England. It was opened 18 years ago, a purpose-built single-storey building attached by a long corridor to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. From the outside, tucked away in the corner of the vast hospital site, the unit resembles nothing more than an unassuming sheltered housing complex, badly in need of some paint on the window frames and work on the roof. (Note to NHS maintenance staff: the gym has been littered with buckets to catch the rain ever since I arrived here. Please do something.)

                But looks mean nothing. In terms of research, outreach, facilities, experience of staff, expertise to call upon and the simple trick of having absolutely everything under one roof, QENSIU is a nugget of international excellence. It is one of 13 spinal cord injury units in the UK and Ireland, including the English national centre, at Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury. But this is the only unit to have Charter Mark accreditation, which it has held since 1994, and is also the only one to have attained the government’s Customer Service Excellence standard, a kind of ultimate gold star for an organisation’s culture, service delivery and the way it treats its customers.

                Of this I knew nothing, of course, when I was flown in to the Southern General with a broken neck and back, to be received by the main Accident and Emergency department and then transferred to the unit’s high-dependency ward for spinal injuries, which also qualifies, in terms of staffing and expertise, as an intensive care unit. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I was already seriously lucky. Many patients with spinal injuries are initially taken to other regional hospitals, where they languish, without specialised care, until a bed becomes available in Glasgow for their rehabilitation. Over these past months, I have heard too many patients talk of the bed sores and complications they developed in ordinary hospitals – a measure, if one were needed, of the unique needs of spinal patients.

                So when I fell off my horse, I became one of the 750-1,000 people in the UK who damage their spinal cord every year – there are no exact figures because it’s not a notifiable condition – and one of the average 160 or so new admissions annually to QENSIU. The first I knew about my condition was when the director of the unit, David Allan, who performs the spinal surgery, loomed into my dinner-plate-sized view of the ceiling above me and told me I’d broken C6 and cracked T12, and horses were dangerous because he used to keep them himself. Quirky, direct but not at all doom-laden, he told me my spine was not severed but I was paralysed and would need 18 months’ rehabilitation. Seconds after he left, there popped up the ageless pixie face of my named nurse, the wonderful Christine Eden. “It may not take as long as that,” she whispered. “I have seen many wonderful things happen here.”
                I don’t know if theirs is a routine double act for new patients, but what they both said was so vital to me. Hope filled me; and in a sense has never drained away. Christine has been a spinal nurse for 44 years; her care, expertise and kindness are equalled only by her modesty.

                Thereafter, strapped to a special spinal tilt bed and befuddled by morphine, I met a procession of people upon whose expertise my life depended. My consultant, Dr Mariel Purcell, a charming Irishwoman; Dr Alan McLean, a respiratory specialist; Matthew Fraser, who specialises in microsurgery; and the lovely urology specialist known universally as Jig or Dr Jig, short for Jigajinni.
                After patients have their lives saved, they then must have them rebuilt. QENSIU has 12 high-dependency beds, but its 36 rehab beds – including a specialist respiratory care unit – are the base for a whole new world of gym and hand therapy. Here, for those who put in the effort, lies salvation. The physiotherapy team – including Jon (Yoda) Hasler and Susan King, my beloved hobbit – has around 55 years’ cumulative expertise in rehabilitating people with spinal injury, and a gym with everything from a hugely expensive Lokomat walking machine to (if we’re honest) the far more useful scrap Fiat Punto, into which patients learn to transfer themselves. In the gym, blood, sweat, tears and gallows humour reign, but lives are turned around.

                For high-level spinal injuries, improving the use of damaged hands can massively effect future quality of life. In this regard, the unit boasts another specialist of world renown, Leslie Wallace, who is also at the forefront of tendon transplants, advising surgeons how to restore power. “If you can help someone learn to feed themselves, or give someone a transplant so they can grip with a thumb, then you transform lives,” she says.

                How far things have come. Until the early years of the last century, according to the charity Spinal Injuries Association, a spinal cord injury was regarded as fatal. Even by the Sixties there was still a 35 per cent death rate among those with tetraplegia. Improvements in the treatment of spinal cord injury have come about partly because of better initial paramedic care, but mostly because of the multidisciplinary approach now employed, where doctors, nurses, psychologists and therapists work together to manage the care required to enable a patient to become independent.

                Perfecting that multidisciplinary approach has fallen to Margaret McKillop MBE, the formidable clinical services manager. She oversees the whole ship – the large nursing staff, including gentle, inspiring people such as Gillian Irvine, a senior staff nurse who always gives more time than she has to give, Amanda Howat, my occupational therapist, who taught me how to dress myself, shave my legs and laugh again, and Mandy Rocket, the auxiliary whose childhood was as hilariously old-fashioned as mine was. Remember stereograms and darned stockings? We certainly do.

                The best cheer is found in the dining room, where Ellen De Baie and Margaret Beecham, legendary Glasgow dinner ladies, rise above the perpetual mumping and moaning about the food with grace and humour and tongues too sharp for anyone to live with.
                The unit’s £7.5 million annual budget also pays for liaison sisters, who travel the country visiting former inmates (once in QENSIU, you remain theirs for life); and the many outpatient clinics for everything from pain control to assisted conception. Plus, the unit offers a remarkable promise: if you make any significant recovery in motor function after you leave, you will be re-admitted when there is a bed free to continue work in the gym. It remains a unit much greater than the sum of its parts. Early in my time here, as I quailed at my plight, a fellow patient glided up to me in his chair. “This is a wonderful place, you know,” he said. “Money simply could not buy what’s here.” And he was absolutely right.


                  Thanks for that,


                    There you go Col me ol' china! Enjoy.


                      Originally posted by Timaru View Post


                      I see your point keps but reading it in context I think most people would take it as sarcasm or an attempt at gallows humor.
                      I didn't appreciate the editor's assessment of Melanie's psyche. This is someone's disastrous life-altering autobiographical record being documented and shouldn't be used by way of gratuitous commentary to increase the newspaper's circulation. I think in light of the subject matter that Melanie is doing a superb job of relaying her story to the readers all by herself.

                      Originally posted by Melanie and editor
                      Some days all the fight goes out of me.

                      ‘I have just enough finger-power to turn the radio on and sip NHS tea from a mug with a special handle. Hooray. Rejoice’

                      Times columnist Melanie Reid broke her neck and back after falling from a horse in April. Writing from hospital, she’s finding it hard to stay positive in the face of recent setbacks.
                      "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - Philo of Alexandria


                        She is an awesome writer. Please post more of her articles or a link to them etc. She's the best I've read that really describes my feelings. Thanks


                          Thanks so much FPF, (I'd love to know the meaning of your name)
                          I gobbled those articles down as soon as I saw them.
                          She writes so well and honestly.
                          One thing that stuck with me was her observation of the patients smoking. She said something along the lines maybe her affluent hobby that is costing as much in care is as risky as unhealthy lifestyles. As much as I dislike smoking there was some truth to that.
                          I really liked her descriptions of the sassy soldier.


                            Originally posted by ffindley View Post
                            She is an awesome writer. Please post more of her articles or a link to them etc. She's the best I've read that really describes my feelings. Thanks
                            Here is the link to the Times online paper:


                            However, the paper (outrageously) is now subscription based. But it's worth the £1 to post the articles up here for you guys to read and obviously read them myself.

                            @LindaT - there is no great story behind my screen name. It is a quote from Scarface when Tony Montana is sitting in his jacuzzi watching Flamingos on his TV. But good old Tony calls them pelicans. ;-)

                            See the link:


                              @LindaT - there is no great story behind my screen name. It is a quote from Scarface when Tony Montana is sitting in his jacuzzi watching Flamingos on his TV. But good old Tony calls them pelicans. ;-)

                              See the link:


                              Thanks fo the link FPF, I haven't seen that movie in years. Funny!


                                Thank you for posting these articles.