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Sandra’s Story - Using Mobility Aids on the Long Road to Recovery from Spinal Surgery

February 05, 2024 -
image if doctor showing patient a spinal model

Today we share one person’s very personal journey through live-saving surgery, and how mobility aids have helped her on the road to recovery. Sandra, 61, lives in Tiptree, Essex. In June 2021, like millions of others, she went for her second COVID jab. When she felt a heavy arm after it, she thought nothing of it. However, instead of fading away, the feeling got worse over time.

The following month, Sandra had a blinding headache. She says: “It was like nothing I’d ever experienced, I couldn’t even stand.” The GP arranged a CT scan and diagnosed sinusitis, but something wasn’t right. Over the subsequent months, Sandra experienced more and more symptoms. “Weakness started to affect my whole body and I had to use a crutch for walking,” she says.

In August 2022, Sandra had an MRI scan, and doctors identified a lump on her neck. At last Sandra had a diagnosis. She takes up the story in her own words:

“It was an intradural intramedullary spinal tumour. A tumour within my spine. Basically, it was applying pressure to my spinal cord and shutting my body down. By the time they diagnosed it, I couldn’t move at all and my husband had to do practically everything for me. I could just about feed myself, but if it had gone on any longer, I wouldn’t even have been able to do that. It started to affect my breathing and the consultant said I needed an emergency operation and it couldn’t wait. A few days later, in I went.”

Sandra was in surgery for eight hours on 30 November 2022 and she was in hospital for three weeks, getting home just in time for Christmas last year. But she still had a long road ahead.

The road to recovery

“I was quite helpless initially, and even a year later, I’m still far from fully recovered, but I can get around and do jobs around the house now. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m certainly a lot better than this time last year!”

“After the surgery, I couldn’t move at all. It was a long road to getting my mobility back and a year later I still depend on my aids and gadgets around the house.”

Getting around

“Initially, when I came out of hospital, my husband, Cliff, had to push me around in a wheelchair. I value my independence, but essentially, I had to learn how to walk again. At first, I used a walking frame, just to get around the house and get my legs working. I was told not to use it outside, so it was a big day when I was able to transition to crutches in February.”

“That meant I could get out of the front door again. Hooray! It was great to get out and about, visiting my daughter and my dad and so on, so it felt like a big development. I went from two crutches to one, and after a month or so, replaced the crutches with a walking stick. I still use the stick now. Even a year on from surgery I feel a bit wobbly and light-headed sometimes, and I can’t walk long distances yet. But I’m trying to do a bit of walking without the stick, too.”

A comfortable chair

When things were at their worst, Sandra found it difficult to sleep. She says “I would lie in bed but it would just be monumental pain, I had to get up. In the end we got a fireside chair for the bedroom and I would sit in that and put my feet up. Comfort at last! I was able to sleep for hours like that. I still enjoy sitting there for the occasional afternoon snooze, although fortunately I can sleep in bed again now at night.”

Bathroom aids

shower stoolThe bathroom can be the most dangerous room in the house for anyone with restricted mobility. Sandra’s bathroom is full of helpful bathroom aids including a shower chair, grab handles and a raised toilet seat:

“The shower chair has been absolutely brilliant. It means I can get on with taking a shower in my own time and without worrying about slipping or feeling funny and losing my balance. I absolutely love it. As for the other aids, like the grab handles and the raised toilet seat – they just make life that much easier. I can go to the bathroom and do whatever I need to do in comfort and without Cliff constantly worrying that I’m going to take a tumble!”

A handy grabber and other household aids

handy jar and bottle openerSandra has always enjoyed cooking. She tells us: “Cliff and I have always shared cooking responsibilities, but obviously he had to do it all while I was recovering. I’m able to stand in the kitchen and take my turn again sometimes now, which is great. But reaching up or down for things still makes my head swim sometimes, so I Iove my grabber. It’s also useful when the cat knocks the TV remote onto the floor!” 

Sandra’s condition also affected fine motor skills, making gripping and turning movements awkward to achieve. There are numerous kitchen aids that can help here, including easy openers for bottles, cans and jars.

Looking ahead

It has been a long road for Sandra, and she is still recovering from her life-saving surgery more than a year ago. But she has been able to return to part time work, helping remotely with admin for the local nursery.

Sandra’s husband Cliff, 65, told us: “It was touch and go a year ago, really scary. This whole episode has certainly been life-changing for both of us. But Sandra had excellent support, the people at Addenbrookes were excellent. She is still recovering, but things are looking much better this Christmas than last year. I don’t know how we’d have managed without Sandra’s mobility aids, they made a big difference.”

We would like to thank Sandra and Cliff for their time and for sharing their experiences. It was eye-opening to see the role Sandra’s mobility and household aids have played in her recovery – and also in helping her keep her sense of humour through the darkest times.

Jon Wade
Jon Wade

Jon has been working at CareCo since 2019. He uses his extensive product knowledge to provide insights and advice on the best mobility aids for every occasion.

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