Sophie Butler, 21, student from Essex.
These were the labels given to me by the paramedics as they rushed me on a stretcher through the crowded hospital wards parting the waves of frantic nurses and doctors who were trying to work out what was wrong with me. At first, their questions made sense but, after a while, it became nothing but white noise as pain began to take its toll on my body. As I stared up at the ceiling, the room turning white, I felt the shards of my broken back severing my spinal cord like a thousands knives. Hours went by, from hospital to hospital, I felt my heart growing weaker as it tried to set me free of the pain coursing through my body.
Only 9 hours earlier I had been training, now I was being put under for spinal surgery, not knowing if I would wake up the next morning.
Another 9 hours later, I awoke - with 2 metal rods as my new back bone I realised this was not just a bad dream.
On July 5th I fell to the floor whilst squatting 70kg, an accident that would change my life forever. My spinal cord was punctured by my back that had snapped in two, leaving me paralysed from the waist down. Before this nightmare, I was just an ordinary 21 year old, a fitness fanatic. I had just finished university and I was trying to find my place in this world. Now, I was a paraplegic. I didn’t know how I was going survive this but I knew I had to be strong.
Days went by, these days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. With nothing to do but lay in a hospital bed and watch the stressed NHS staff running around me, it was like slowly dying. Like watching your own death play out before your own eyes. Then, one early Thursday morning, I was transferred to the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation unit where I would begin to rebuild my life.
I had less than 3 weeks till my graduation and, after doing nothing but laying consistently on my side for 3 weeks, I had to create strength from within myself that I didn’t know I had. This strength carried me through painful and gruelling physio sessions, the loss of losing people around me and, the heart wrenching nerves I felt when I finally managed to enter the cathedral stage on my graduation day.
The pride and power I felt being able to attend my graduation after coming so close to death only 2 months earlier, was an indescribable feeling. This feeling however, did not last forever, as I had to make a bittersweet return to the rehabilitation unit, and I would not come home for another 2 months. The days continued to be long and there were moments when I thought none of this was worth it; but, something was different now.
Whenever I had a moment in which I believed life was not at all worth it, I pictured the look on my friend’s faces when they saw me in my gown, the tears that came from my Nonna’s face as I threw my cap in the air and, the roar that came from the auidence as I got on stage; because, these are the moments that truly make our lifes complete. I picture exactly how I want my life to be in a years time and, I imagine myself running towards that goal. Sprinting, never stopping. And that is how I overcome and conquer anything that dares to stand in my way from now on.
Despite the physical and phsycholgical torment I have conquered this past year, I’m now back to training and throwing myself head first into my recovery. Pushing my body and, people’s expectations of it every single day.
I want anyone who reads my story to feel inspired to simply live. To take control of their lifes and make it their own. But especially women, because I feel that for years society has told us the positions that we can and can’t take in life, it’s reinforced the expectations that are thrusted up on us. So, it’s time that we take this world and re-define it as our own. Regardless of your gender, race, sexuality, social status or so-called disability, it’s time girls knew that they can run the world and, that the revolution starts from within them.