“I never would have imagined the hurdles I’ve faced over the last five years, nor that I’d manage to overcome them.” The moment that changed everything
Shauna’s memory of the road crash that changed her life, is patchy. She and her partner Luke both sustained injuries in the collision in 2018. Shauna was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. She was treated for a head injury, fractures to her left eye, nose, right forearm and ribs, bowel and pelvic injuries and a blood clot. Most significantly, she suffered a spinal fracture and incomplete L4/5 spinal cord injury, which means she has no feeling below her knees.
Around three weeks after the accident Shauna started to understand that something was really wrong. But it was six weeks later that a consultant in the spinal unit at James Cook University Hospital told her she wouldn’t be able to walk again unaided. The news was overwhelming and took Shauna a long time to process.
While Shauna was still in hospital, her mum contacted us to help Shauna make a legal claim. Her solicitor, Laura Mcilduff has supported her from the beginning.
Laura said, “We secured an interim payment almost immediately and funding for private rehabilitation specialists. Shauna’s rehab team were able to liaise with her NHS treating team to prepare for her discharge from hospital, ensuring she had access to the aids, equipment and rehabilitation she needed at home to maximise her recovery and quality of life.”
We referred Shauna to our financial adviser John Riley-Dibb, who has helped her allocate her compensation to make sure it provides for her current and future needs.
Shuna was able to appoint a case manager to co-ordinate her appointments, identify therapies or equipment she needed, and support her with decision making.
The road to recovery
Shauna started her rehabilitation journey in James Cook, with the support of NHS physiotherapists. Motivated by her drive to get home to her four-year-old son, she participated in a full schedule of physiotherapy. Shauna credits those early sessions with setting her on the path to where she is now.
Life looked completely different for Shauna. She had to learn how to do pretty much everything again, and things she took for granted suddenly needed a lot more effort. She says, “It was really frustrating that simple things, I couldn’t do anymore.”
Shauna’s rehabilitation package included support from a Neuropsychologist, which gave her a safe space to vent her frustrations and help her come to terms with what had happened.
An Occupational Therapist (OT) also worked with Shauna to help her with routine and organisation. The OT identified equipment and adaptations to make life easier.
Around four months after the collision, Shauna was ready to go home. Her discharge from hospital was delayed while she found somewhere to stay. Her own home simply wasn’t big enough for her wheelchair, so the family moved in with Luke’s mum.
We referred Shauna to Debs, a neuro physiotherapist from Neural Pathways in Newcastle, who supported Shauna’s discharge into the community and has continued to work with her. Shauna’s treatment programme was designed to help her gain as much recovery as possible, building her strength, and with it her confidence. Shauna learned to use aids so she could stand again, and before the pandemic and her second pregnancy, was able to take some steps using orthotics and a rollator, or the parallel bars.
Debs says, “Shauna’s got an inner fire that’s allowed her to progress forward, to do what she’s doing now.”
Debs has supported Shauna to increase her upper and lower limb strength as well as her core stability. She’s had hydrotherapy to help with pain, especially in her legs. They’ve worked on transferring from her wheelchair and Debs has recommended equipment to improve Shauna’s independence. Funded by her legal claim, Shauna has used high-tech equipment, including an exoskeleton that allows her to move in a standing position. This is beneficial for her internal organs, bone density and range of movement.
Physiotherapy will always be a part of her life, delivered in bursts that meet her specific needs, combined with phases of maintenance. Her current treatment burst aims to get her back to where she was before her pregnancy.
Impact on family life
The hardest thing for Shauna was the impact of her injuries on her ability to parent her son Carter.
Before the collision they’d run round the park together, ride bikes, climb trees, and kick a football.
Afterwards she worried whether she’d still be a good mum. At first, she tried to protect Carter by keeping him away from the hospital so he wouldn’t see the cuts and bruises on her face. He constantly asked, “Where’s mammy?” and Shauna found it hard knowing Carter had to carry on his everyday life without her.
After Shauna came home, Carter gradually got used to his mum being in a wheelchair, and he started to understand that Shauna couldn’t run around with him like she used to.
Despite the challenges, Shauna always wanted a bigger family.
No one could say whether her internal injuries would affect her chances of having a baby, or how she would cope as a mum with a spinal cord injury and a newborn baby. It was up to her to try and see what happened.
Finding out she was pregnant with her daughter Vienna filled Shauna with mixed emotions. She was nervous about having a baby in a different situation. Her body felt more sensitive to the pains and stretches of pregnancy, which got worse as she grew bigger. She also worried her baby would be scrunched up because she was sitting down all the time and couldn’t be active in the way she was with Carter.
Determined to have a waterbirth, Shauna jumped through hoops to prove she was able, despite being told no at the start. She felt it was ruled out because of her disability and before anyone considered how to make it work for her. At 38 weeks, the hospital conducted a risk assessment and Shauna had to prove she could climb in and out of the birthing pool safely. During labour she had to get out of the pool every half hour to check on her progress. Despite the hurdles, Shauna achieved her goal and Vienna was born in the water.
Shauna had additional input from Occupational Therapy during her pregnancy. She was supported to purchase aids that allowed her to take a full role in Vienna’s care, including pram attachments for her wheelchair, a lap baby seating aid, a sling, a specialist car seat, and a Charli Chair so she could bathe Vienna safely in the shower.
The OT helped Shauna to choose wheelchairs that supported her as a mum. For example, an all-terrain wheelchair allows her to go onto the field to watch Carter play football and her SMART drive power pack transforms her manual wheelchair into a powered chair, giving her the freedom to hold hands with the children when they go out.
Compensation was allocated so Shauna could purchase a hand driven car. It has a roof box with equipment to pick up her wheelchair once she’s in the driver’s seat, so she can go out independently and take the children to school on her own.
A home that meets her needs
Careful financial planning, supported by John has enabled Shauna to purchase a home that will be adapted to meet her needs. Since the collision, the family’s lived in a series of rental properties adapted with wet rooms and ramps, but these have still presented problems. Shauna feels that a fully adapted home will make a huge difference to how she and her family lives their life.
Adaptations will be made with the family in mind, such as lower kitchen benches and worktops that move up and down so she can prepare meals and bake with the children. Shauna hopes they’ll make everything so much easier, allowing her to be the best mum she can be.
A strong support network
Shauna has a strong network of support around her. Her mother and nana have taken on caring roles at times, supporting her with the children. She also has a circle of close friends and family ready to help when they’re needed.
In addition, the claim allowed Shauna to employ a Personal Assistant to support her with the children and household tasks while she regained her independence.
Throughout everything, Luke has stayed by her side, even taking on the role of her Support Worker in the early days. Shauna says he had to learn how to have a girlfriend in a wheelchair, but he’s always put her needs first. They’re a team and a family unit, working towards shared goals.
Luke said, “Knowing Shauna was going to use a wheelchair was never easy, but the strength she showed through the hardest time in her life was unbelievable. She’s the most amazing mam and girlfriend we could all ask for and I love her so much. She’s never given up. She’s a true inspiration to me and I hope to many others.”
What’s next for Shauna?
The collision has changed Shauna’s perspective.
She now embraces opportunities to travel and take the children on holiday. She loves being able to enjoy the smaller things too, such as taking them swimming, and trips to the park. She says, “I never imagined in 2018 that I’d be doing the things I can do now.”
Laura says, “Shauna and I have built a fantastic relationship which means I’ve been a part of, and supported Shauna at key milestones. From Shauna’s first family holiday following the accident, to her setting up her party planning business, we’ve been there every step of the way, making sure Shauna has everything she needs to live the fullest life possible.”
“Shauna is one of the most determined clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with. She will not be defined by her injuries and doesn’t let anything stop her being the best mum to her children, partner to Luke and self-employed businesswoman. Her outlook on life is inspirational and her story proves that, although life may be different following a serious injury, anything is possible with a determined attitude and the right team around you.”
Shauna documents her journey on Instagram
@myspinalcord_injury_journey, finding it cathartic to talk about what she’s achieved as she hits milestones in her recovery. Shauna wants to help others by speaking openly about her feelings, after the collision and now.
We’re sharing her story to help our clients imagine what’s possible, so nothing feels impossible.
Shauna said, “If I didn’t have Irwin Mitchell on my side, I don’t know what I’d have done. Laura gets everything. If I’m feeling sad or bad about anything she always makes us feel better. She’s supported me through everything. All the highs and all the lows. She still supports me now.”
Experts from across our business have advised Shauna to ensure that her wider needs are met now, and in the future.
Making a claim for compensation has allowed Shauna to maximise her recovery and move forward with her life, supporting herself and protecting her family.
If you or a loved one has suffered a life-changing injury, and you need support, guidance and help accessing rehabilitation,
please reach out to our caring and professional team.
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