A FORMER accident and emergency nurse has described how her life was turned upside down by a freak sporting injury that left her paralysed.

Laura Bibby, from Burgess Hill, suffered a slipped disc in her spine which damaged her nerves, leaving her unable to feel her legs.

The 42-year-old went from being a frontline nurse and keen runner to feeling as if she was a “burden” and a “bystander in her own life”.

But thanks to groundbreaking techniques, she is learning to walk again and is rebuilding her life as a disabled mother of four.

She has now completed her first 10km distance event since the accident, a gruelling charity run, and has returned to work as an ambulance 999 and 111 call operator, a job in which she can still use her medical expertise.

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Laura spoke about her emotions and also about how she now looks at life through a new lens as a disabled woman who struggles with access in her wheelchair.

She said the injury happened on a weekend in May last year.

She said: “I instantly had pain when I felt my back click.

“I thought ‘that doesn’t feel right’ but thought nothing more of it.

“The next day I woke up in agonising pain, and it got progressively worse.

“I saw my doctor on the Monday, and by Wednesday I had to go to accident and emergency because I was paralysed from the waist down.

“It reached the point where I couldn’t feel my legs.

“The disc had herniated and embedded itself in my spine. It was floating around in the abyss.”

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Laura had emergency surgery, but said when she got home it took her an hour to get to the top of the stairs.

She said: “I think I was really naive.

“I have treated so many patients with spinal injuries but I thought when I woke up from surgery I would recover.

“But my GP told me that I may never walk again. That was the hardest thing I have ever been told.

“But it is also the driving force behind me wanting to defy that diagnosis.

“This was completely life-changing. It turned my life upside down. My children became my carers.”

Laura said her daughters Melissa, aged nine, Poppy, seven, and Dorothy, five, have all helped her with basic day-to-day tasks like getting dressed, having a shower, and cooking dinner.

She has also had help from elder son Eddie and husband James.

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Laura said: “It’s the simple things you take for granted, not being able to do them really opens your eyes.

“As a family it has brought us closer together.

“It has made me realise that when we talk about being inclusive, we are not.

“It is a constant daily challenge – going down the road in a wheelchair to pick up my children from school but then not being able to because of roadworks on the pavement.

“I hit rock bottom in September last year. I felt like a complete burden, a bystander in my own life. For me, that was when lockdown started.”

But she said she saw inspiring people in wheelchairs on Instagram and started on her own road to rehabilitation on the social media channel with her page The Blue Brick Road.

Laura said: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“I will push to get back what I can. I never expected, a year down the line, to be where I am today.

“Just because I am in a wheelchair doesn’t mean it has to define me.

“I can still be glamorous and enjoy the high life.

“I want to show people the difficulties of life in a wheelchair and make society more inclusive.”

Supported by the charity Neurokinex, she has been learning to walk and hopes to be free from needing to use a wheelchair.

She said: “Suddenly I was running again, it was just amazing.

“But I also saw other patients in there, sometimes children who had never walked, and they were learning to walk. I was so, so grateful.”

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Neurokinex, which has a centre at Gatwick, provides specialised neurological rehabilitation for various forms of paralysis.

Its aim is to make “high quality rehabilitation and wellbeing programmes more accessible and inclusive for those living with various forms of paralysis”.

Laura said: “I want to raise for them because I don’t want someone in the same position with a spinal injury not to have the same opportunity I had.

“Life is never going back to how it was, so I am adapting to a new life.

“It is a bad thing to happen in my life. But I now look at life through a different lens. I want to improve access for disabled people

“I have been out to practise walking, but if there are people rushing by and pushing I fear I’m going to fall over, it knocks your confidence.”

To follow Laura’s progess visit The Blue Brick Road in Instagram or to donate visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/laura-bibby3.