It was a cold, dark winter’s evening. My mum was driving me back home from work when the car started making funny noises and filled with horrible black smoke.
We pulled over on a country lane and I got out. I went to the driver’s side to help my mum. I saw bright headlights coming towards me. Great, someone who can help us.
That’s when I was hit by a tractor and dragged under its 10-tonne trailer.
I got caught under the back wheels and dragged along the road. The tractor never stopped. My body did.
I remained conscious. I wasn’t in pain. My right leg just felt uncomfortable. I wanted someone to straighten it for me as I couldn’t. It only took 15 minutes for the emergency services to arrive, but it felt forever.
As restrictions were in place because of the Covid pandemic, I had to travel in the ambulance alone. I told my parents how much I loved them. I accepted I was probably going to die. Surely nobody survives what I’d just been through.
When I arrived at Leeds Major Trauma Centre they put me to sleep. My mum and dad were only allowed to visit me on my third day to say ‘goodbye’ as the internal bleeding was so severe they feared I wouldn’t make it.
I woke up a month later in the intensive care unit. I could see my mum at the foot of my bed and my dad was stroking my hair. I couldn’t talk. I struggled to breathe. I was in so much pain.
I had no idea about the severity of my injuries. It was a few days before they told me I had no right leg. They had to amputate. The right side of my pelvis was gone too and I had open wounds. I had a lot of internal damage. A lot of my internal organs no longer worked.
The only way the doctor could explain my injuries was to compare me to someone who had been blown up in Afghanistan. That’s why they were getting advice from military doctors in Birmingham.
I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is serious’.
I spent 518 days (18 months) in hospital – the longest time spent by a major trauma patient. It was a record I didn’t want. I was scared. Often depressed. I regularly grieved for my old body.
The days, weeks and months became a blur. I was often on my phone video calling family. I spent weeks apologising to them all to start with. I was sorry for what I had put them through. They had never given up hope on me and knew I would wake up eventually.
The accident happened in January 2021. By March I was moved onto L10 – the trauma ward. I didn’t realise it, but this was only the start of my recovery journey. This ward became my home for the next year.
I had regular surgeries. It took eight people to help roll me over and change me. Other people having to clean me. This shouldn’t be happening to me at 19.
I spent the first few months in denial. I was laughing and joking. I felt grateful to be alive.
Six months later I realised I was never going to have a leg again. That’s when my world came crashing down. I had depression. As the pain got worse, the days got worse. I was in a really bad place. It all hit me at once. I had lost my motivation. What was the point?
It felt like the pain was never going to end. There was no light at the end of tunnel. I kept wearing a hospital gown for a lot of time in hospital. I didn’t want to see what I’d look like in my own clothes. It took me a long time to even look in a mirror.
Eight months in and I ‘celebrated’ my 20th birthday in hospital. I had mainly only seen my parents and sisters, but they surprised me with more family visiting. I remember it being so awkward. People didn’t know what to say to me. I realised how I must look different now. They didn’t want to upset me or make me feel different. It was a big reality check.
The hospital became my home. The staff became my family. It got to the stage where I didn’t want to leave.
When I did eventually leave hospital on 28 June 2022 – 18 months after the crash – I went for three weeks rehabilitation at a special centre for people with severe injuries like mine. I had muscle attached in different places to most people.
I couldn’t return to my old bedroom as it was upstairs. My mum and dad ran a village pub. To start with I lived in the pub dining room, which they converted for me so I had a bed and some space just for me.
It was really difficult adjusting to life outside the hospital. Everyone’s life had moved on. Mine hadn’t.
Now I live in my own bungalow, which is only a few minutes away from my parent’s home. I’ve learned to be independent again. I love to cook in my own kitchen.
I still have rehabilitation and regular trips to London. I’ve managed to stand up and walk with a frame but I’m still using a wheelchair. I need more surgery. There is a long way to go yet. I hope to try prosthetics one day.
It can be so frustrating being in a wheelchair. Access to places still isn’t great, but I’m grateful that I can access most places that I want. I’ve discovered so many cool things too because of my disability. I want to try seated archery. My friends have learned lots about disabilities too. I had never known anyone who had been through anything like what I had.
I never thought I would enjoy life again.
Every obstacle I overcame, I felt immensely proud of myself. To start, I was doing it for my family as they had stood by me. But I soon realised that wasn’t enough. I had to do this for myself. It was a massive moment for me. Yes, something horrible happened to me, but I like the person I’ve become more that the person I was before the accident. I have strength I never knew I had. I’ve gained my independence. If I’ve got through this, I can get through anything. It’s made me a more resilient person. Before I would have given up.
During my time in hospital I spoke a lot to someone from Day One. They were one of my constants. Providing that emotional support that the busy NHS staff just don’t have the time to give. They were with me at the start and they’ve been with me ever since. The emotional support my mum and I received from Day One was massive. Someone to talk to. Someone to offload to. Someone who doesn’t judge and knows the bad days will get better.
At times the struggles were too daunting to cope on your own, and you don’t know what to do. My mum saw things no mother should ever have to see. One day things were so bad for me I begged my mum to smother me with a pillow. I didn’t see the point of living. I regret it fully now, but my mum had to deal with those things on her own. It was great for my mum to have someone from Day One she could talk to and admit that she might be struggling. The nurses are fantastic but the trauma ward is always so busy and they don’t have time to listen to all your problems. With Day One, we knew someone was always there for us.
I had no idea how I was going to live and pay for things outside of hospital if I wasn’t working. I had never thought about benefits as I’m a young woman and expected to work all my life. I didn’t know how it all worked and what I needed to put in place when I left hospital. I remember speaking to someone from Day One about what I was entitled to, which was a massive relief for me as I wouldn’t have known where to start.
Day One does so much for people with injuries like mine. There were small things Day One did for me during my long hospital stay. They brought in a birthday cake, gave me a present at Christmas. I got flowers and a card from Day One when I eventually left the ward. But the best gift was knowing they were still there for me once I got home.
I’m inspired to do peer support eventually. To tell someone it is going to be OK. It might not feel like it now, but things do turn around. I think Day One is amazing. I feel like Day One saved my life.
We hope you will feel inspired by her video and words. Donate to our appeal so no one has to face rebuilding their life on their own this Christmas. Thanks to Aviva, all donations to our Christmas appeal up to £250 will be doubled.