Maria’s story: “I think everyone should know about Back Up.”

A picture of Maria on a trip to bath, standing with a walking stick beside a model Dalek

Maria is 85 years old. Originally from Persia, she was a nursing sister working in A&E departments across Germany, Saudi Arabia and China. After retiring, she got in touch with Back Up when she sustained a spinal cord injury while undergoing investigations into a cancer.

“In 2019, I felt a small lump while taking a shower. It was about the size of half a pea, if that,” Maria explains. “I went to the doctors who X-rayed it, and they sent me for an urgent MRI within two days. It confirmed I had lymphoma.”

“Following that, I had some long investigations, including a biopsy through my chest. For some reason, I had a bad feeling about it.”

I felt desperate

“When I woke up from the biopsy, I couldn’t move. Initially, doctors thought I had had a spinal stroke, but it coincided with the site of the procedure. They confirmed I had Hodgkin lymphoma, and that I was injured from level C5 to T12.”

“It turned our lives upside down. I had always been very active, and was visiting Belgium every other week beforehand.”

“I had a really difficult time in the hospital.”

“I was discharged to a care home which we had to fund ourselves with no medications and no follow up or rehab.”

“After three and a half months in the care home I moved in with my son having sold my home before going to hospital. Now, he and his wife are my main carers.”

“Eventually after 15 months of waiting I got into Stoke Mandeville outpatients where I met a very a kind and helpful doctor. He explained that I was diagnosed as C5-T12 Tetraplegic incomplete plus four compressed fractures of which two are in Cauda Equine.”

“I was feeling depressed and desperate.”

Finding support

“I found out about Back Up while I was in hospital, after searching for information online initially brought me to the Brain and Spine Foundation. I took part in mentoring first of all, which helped me a lot.”

“Back Up showed me all the things that were available for me.”

“I didn’t have much network connection in hospital, but I still joined some of Back Up’s online forums – the Back Up Lounge. I think it’s one of the best things Back Up does.”

“I then went on a Next Steps trip to Bath with Back Up. We all did hydrotherapy on one day, which was amazing, it felt so nice! There were also demonstrations from people who are usually in the rooms in the Lounge.”

“I’d been thinking about getting a powerchair, but I got to try a self-propelled wheelchair and it was really lightweight, so I might get one of those. And we got to enjoy an outing into Bath for dinner. It was just great to stay in lovely accommodation and meet so many other people in a similar position. The only problem was my son getting lost on the way back – it was funny as we used to live in Bath! It really was absolutely fantastic.”

“I think everyone should know about Back Up – I even mentioned them to my neighbour who has a spinal cord injury. They’re really a fantastic charity. And I’m not the only one who thinks that – someone I met through the Lounge said she wished she had met Back Up 20 years ago.”

Help us to be there for more people like Maria, to support them to thrive after a spinal cord injury, at any age.

Volunteer for Back Up, register your interest today!