Lisette’s story: Learning to be adventurous again

Meet Lisette:

  • Lives in North Yorkshire with her family
  • Has three adult children at various stages of “emptying the nest”
  • Loves to live an active life, and has recently rediscovered cycling

Spinal cord injury can happen to anyone at any time. Lisette sustained her incomplete injury from an epidural injection ahead of a scheduled surgery.

Lisette has degenerative arthritis in her spine, hips, knees and other joints. In 2021, after years of waiting and dealing with pain, she finally had surgery scheduled. She was looking forward to getting back to living an active life – but her epidural resulted in a life-changing spinal cord injury.

“It was the epidural injection that caused my spinal cord injury. I knew the surgeon wasn’t at fault. As a nurse, I understood the reasons why it happened, but it left me with a complete loss of feeling and changed function below my waist.

“I was looking forward to the planned surgery, thinking it would solve everything. I was keeping fit, eating healthily, keeping my weight down and had quit alcohol a few years before. I was doing everything right, so my injury hit me like a brick.

“I spent a lot of time crying and was filled with anger, grief, denial and frustration.”

For Lisette, a lot of the time after her injury was a blur. She also sustained her injury during the Omicron Covid-19 outbreak, so volunteers from Back Up were unable to reach out to newly injured individuals in person.

Fortunately, the following March, Lisette took part in our two-day “What Next?” course. This virtual service is an online guide combined with live Zoom Q&A sessions about living well with a spinal cord injury. “What Next?” covers important topics such as health and wellbeing, bladder and bowel care, and mobility. It also gives people with a spinal cord injury the chance to get support from others in a similar situation.

“I wish I knew about this course sooner because it was so helpful. The knowledge and experience that was shared was invaluable.

“This course brought everything together in one place – they covered the psychological, the physical, and the practical. There were sessions on continence, health and wellbeing, mobility, relationships, and accessing other support.

“It was so inclusive because you can just listen in or comment and ask questions, be anonymous or contribute.

“It was a relief. To be able to ask “Is it just me? Is this normal?””

After “What Next?”, Lisette found a supportive community of others who understood what she was going through. She started attending our Back Up Lounge – an online forum for everyone affected by spinal cord injury – and also found support on our City Skills course.

“The Back Up Lounge has a space for people who can walk with a spinal cord injury. It was so helpful because I felt that my incomplete spinal cord injury was invisible. I don’t use a wheelchair, I use crutches, and yet I have all the pain and functional difficulties that someone in a wheelchair might experience.

“Finally meeting others in a similar situation has made a huge difference.”

Following City Skills, Lisette’s confidence grew – helping her work towards living life to the full again.

“I’ve got more confidence going out on my own and recently went away with work on a conference to Brighton.

“Not everything went to plan –  but I am more resilient now.

“Back Up gives you the confidence to deal with situations rather than say I won’t do that again.”

Most recently, Lisette joined our Colorado adaptive skiing course. A self-described “speed demon”, this course was a great chance for Lisette to see what was possible after spinal cord injury – and have fun along the way.

“The Colorado course showed me a freedom I hadn’t thought possible after spinal cord injury.

“To get that excitement back going down the slopes on my own was truly amazing. It’s given me a zest for life back, and brought that element of joy back to my life. The course focused on the things you can still do – there was such an amazing camaraderie between us all.

Since her experience with Back Up’s services, Lisette has been confident enough to try a new activity – rediscovering cycling for the first time since her injury.

“Last week, I got back on my bike. My husband and I went on a ride together for the first time in at least six years – now I have an adapted saddle and suspension saddle post. The North York Moors National Park is on my doorstep and I will be heading there soon.”

Has Lisette’s story inspired you to reach out for support after spinal cord injury? Follow this link to register for our services.