Teenage Volunteer ‘Embodies Spirit of SCI Awareness Day’
An inspirational 17-year-old girl who suffered a serious spinal injury in a devastating road traffic collision two years ago has spoken for the first time about how she has turned her life around – and is now helping others in her position.
Danielle O’Connor suffered fractured vertebrae in an horrific car crash in February 2010 and is expected to need a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Despite her ordeal, the Inverness teenager has shown sheer determination to move on with her life by not only passing her driving test last year but also working for the charity Back-Up to help other spinal injury victims come to terms with their situation.
It is an outlook that embodies the spirit of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Day, which is being held on May 18th to educate the general public and encourage more understanding of such serious injuries and their impact on victims
David Bell, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Glasgow office, is representing Danielle in her ongoing battle to gain access to funds which will help her obtain lifelong care and rehabilitation.
He said: “To face such an ordeal at a young age must have been immensely difficult, but Danielle has not only come to terms with the crash but also immersed herself in helping others.
“This year’s theme for SCI Awareness Day is all about staying active and Danielle has shown how people affected by life-changing injuries are able to move on with their lives, despite the huge difficulties that they face on a day-to-day basis. She is remarkable and truly inspirational.”
Danielle was travelling along a country road in the back of a Vauxhall Astra driven by her friend’s boyfriend when the crash happened on February 16th 2010.
She recalls: “We were driving quite quickly and were behind another car as we approached a sharp bend, but my friend’s boyfriend just kept going and pulled out to overtake. Both my friend and I shouted to him to slow down but he ignored us.
“I think the back-end then slid on some snow as we went around the bend and the car ended up in the middle of the road. The next thing I remember was another car on the right side of the road driving towards us – and then an impact.”
Danielle’s next memory was being unable to move her legs in the vehicle, but she was fortunately rescued from the wreckage when a passer-by in another car pulled her to safety.
Following the accident, Danielle endured a difficult eight months of treatment at the National Spinal Injuries Unit at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and was subsequently readmitted due to further problems.
Now back living in the family home which has been specially adapted to meet her needs, Danielle has focused all of her attention on getting back to living as independently as possible.
She outlined: “The crash has completely changed my life and being told I am likely to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life was initially very hard to take. However, since getting that news my primary focus has been on ensuring that my condition does not prevent me from being who I want to be.
“As I live in a rural area I was initially worried about being isolated. However, I was over the moon when I passed my driving test last year and it shows that having a spinal injury does not mean your life has to just come to a halt.
“I’m also proud to be working with Back-up and talking to younger people with spinal injuries to let them know that they’re not alone. It has been the most difficult two years I’ve ever experienced but I’m determined now to not only improve my own life but help others as much as I can.”
While Irwin Mitchell has helped Danielle secure interim payments for home adaptation, the firm is currently awaiting a series of medical reports to enable it to proceed with a legal battle that will ensure she can gain access to rehabilitation and care services which will further aid her recovery.
David Bell said: “Liability has been admitted in the case but we now need further information to continue with our work and get the client the vital support that she is entitled to.
“We will continue to work to ensure she is able to get funds that will make a huge difference and help her move forward with her life.”