All stories of recovery

Grace's Story

In 2020, Grace suffered major injuries from a farming accident that changed her life.
Grace Photo 3rd September 2020 1

Together with her mum and sister, Grace looks after a small farm she inherited when her father died, in addition to a full-time job in IT.

My brother-in-law and I were baling the hay during a late harvest. The bales are half a ton each just and we stack them on pallets. I jumped out of the tractor to put more pallets down, but as I walked away the tower of bales collapsed. One landed on my back, and another onto my left foot. My brother-in-law ran over from the field and managed to push the bale off my back with brute strength, and the fire brigade were called to remove the bale from my foot.

I don’t remember what happened next, but my mum says she remembers the screaming. I was taken to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance, and woke up having had twenty hours of surgery. Four surgeons worked on me that night, fixing my tibia, fibula, my femur, my pelvis and my lower spine. They think I should be paralysed because of where my spine broke, but I was lucky. I also had complex facial fractures where my face hit the floor, so they had to reconstruct my jaw, eye socket, nose and forehead with metal plates. When they reconstructed my face, they didn’t know what I looked like before, so there was lots of guessing for the surgeons and I thought I might look like Hannibal Lector!

My hospital stay

After a couple of weeks they removed the bandages and gave me a mirror. I was underwhelmed when I looked – I said ‘I don’t look that different’ – which was a sign that the reconstruction had gone really well.

In hospital I was moved into a private room, which at first seemed great, but it was a long time to be on my own. Because of restrictions in place due to Covid, I could only have a visitor for 20 minutes each day. Later I was moved to the ward and found it helpful to talk with other patients about our different injuries.

While I was on the ward I was offered a call from a Peer Support Volunteer through Day One. I didn’t think I needed to talk - I’m quite good at blocking stuff out - but I was called by Martin, who told me about his past motorcycle injury. When I told him my story it was the first time I’d really spoken about it out loud. I suddenly realised how serious it had been.

"At the time I don’t think I realised how much it helped to talk about it, but I still remember that conversation really well even now."

The long recovery process

When I finally became well enough to return home, it wasn’t how I’d imagined. I assumed I’d be walking out of hospital, but I wasn’t even close.

Back at the farm I moved in with my mum. First I had to work on rebuilding the muscle that had wasted while I’d been bedbound. Luckily I was very fit when the accident happened which made recovery a bit easier.

After three months I was able to try standing up, which felt so unusual it made me nauseous. Then I worked my way to walking with a frame, and then crutches. It took around five months to walk unaided, and a further four months before my leg metal leg frame was removed.

Once the frame came off my leg, I let my wounds heal and strengthened my muscles through swimming, physio and the gym. Now I can do most day-to-day things, but I’m not the kind of person who just does day-to-day things! I can’t run or jump, lunge or squat. I can’t ride my horse, or snowboard, which are two things I love. So as far as I’m concerned I’m only about seventy percent recovered.

My employers have been really good – I got full sick pay while I was off work, and they gave me a return-to-work advisor who helped me plan a phased return over three months. It was more tiring than I expected. I couldn’t concentrate, or remember how to do simple tasks I’d done a million times, but gradually it all came back.

Where I am today

Although I’m mostly independent now, there have still been times, like when I couldn’t remember things, that have made me really nervous. I still panic at the thought of going out, which makes me lose my appetite. After all, I can’t even bend down to do my own shoelaces, so I couldn’t run out of the way of a car if I needed to. There’s still some work to do, but I’m confident I’ll get there, and grateful for how far I’ve come.

Just a year on from her accident, Grace has just taken part in 75 Miles In July – a fundraiser to support the work of Day One. An increidble achievement!

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