Pia’s story: Fatigue, adaptations, and self-care after spinal cord injury

Meet Pia:

  • Studying Economics and Management at King’s 
  • Rediscovered her active lifestyle on a Back Up Multi Activity Course
  • She  wrote and published a book when she was only ten years old! 

Spinal cord injury can happen to anyone, anytime, at any age. In Pia’s case a viral infection damaged her spinal cord, completely out of the blue.

Prior to her injury, Pia was studying at university. She was excited to have the chance to take on internships with top firms, and also filled her spare time with extracurricular activities and sports. All this was suddenly interrupted one day after returning from netball practice.  

“Towards the end of the practice session my arms felt really heavy. I didn’t think much of it as I’d had a busy week, but when I returned to my accommodation the symptoms began to worsen. 

“I rushed to hospital and the situation got worse – within a few days, I was struggling with my breathing.  Eventually it was discovered this all came from a viral infection.” 

Even though she did not have any other symptoms before she started feeling tired, the infection had damaged Pia’s spinal cord. Every spinal cord injury is as unique as the person who sustains it. In Pia’s case, although she is able to walk, her injury manifests in ways that are often invisible.

“In terms of day-to-day life, I’m at a point where I’m learning to live with my injury. I think it mostly affects me when I need to do a task that requires both hands. Most of my limbs have regained some mobility since my injury, but I have lost a lot of my strength.

“I feel lucky that I don’t experience much pain post-injury, but my main struggle is fatigue. I can end up getting spasms in my legs if I am overly tired, for example.” 

Pia wanted to get her active life back. That is why she signed up for a Back Up Multi Activity Course. Pia first encountered Back Up when she stayed in a spinal center post-injury, and was inspired to take part in our life-changing services.

“When I left hospital I had limited strength, so I struggled with tasks like changing bedsheets or cooking dinner, so I thought a Back Up Multi Activity Course would help.   

“I wanted to get back to the activities I enjoyed before my injury – sports, festivals, concerts, things like that. I thought that if I could do the outdoor activities on the Back Up course, then the idea of playing netball again would feel even more possible!”

Pia signed up for one of our Lake District Multi Activity Courses. Here, participants can boost their confidence after spinal cord injury with adventurous outdoor activities. These include abseiling, kayaking, sailing, as well as plenty of opportunities to learn vital skills from people in a similar situation.

As well as having fun and trying a range of adaptive activities, Pia soon found herself seeing what is truly possible after spinal cord injury.  

“The whole course was challenging, and it truly helped me know myself more post-injury. We did loads of interesting activities including abseiling  – which was a challenge in itself as I needed to find the right balance while using both arms. It’s great that Back Up courses can give you the chance to control things independently!

“I was a bit apprehensive before trying the abseiling – but in the end it felt really liberating. I could walk down the wall, controlling the ropes with my hands.

“It made me realise I can do a lot more than I thought was possible.” 

Since leaving the course, Pia has applied what she learned from others in a similar situation to her day-to-day life. This means that she is now able to manage her fatigue levels in a way that suits her, so that she can live life to the full with a spinal cord injury.

“From others on the course, I learned the importance of having a routine. Getting up at similar times and keeping my sleep schedule regular really benefits my health. I feel like I really improved with this by being on a course.

“I also learned that I could still have jam-packed days with a spinal cord injury! As long as I get enough rest, I can still make the most of the day.” 

We are so glad to hear that Pia learned essential tips for living life to the full after spinal cord injury with Back Up. Visit our website to learn more about our vital services.