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Lena sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident, but tries not to let anything hold her back. Having a compact, easy-to-use catheter to manage her bladder means she can get out and about and do the things she loves.
I live in the UK, and am a positive, outgoing, and active person. I socialise with my friends and enjoy my work. I also like going to the gym and am a competitive curler. I used to work in a busy coffee shop and be on my feet all day dealing with customers. I would also go to the gym three times a week after work. However in 2009, when I was 18 years old, my life changed beyond recognition.
I was involved in a major car accident which left me with multiple injuries – including a spinal cord injury, as well as a broken pelvis and femur. I had a long journey ahead. It took six months of hospitalisation, receiving specialist care in the spinal injuries rehabilitation unit, and then another four months in a care home, where I received nursing care and a programme of intensive physiotherapy, before I was finally able to return home, in a wheelchair.
It seems like a long time ago now, but just after the accident I felt like I was a newborn again. I had to re-learn how to use my own body, one bit at a time. With the support of the spinal injury nurses, I spent an intensive six months healing and learning how to manage my body’s needs. The nurses were a huge support both physically and emotionally. Sometimes, when I felt like giving up, they would reassure me that I would get the hang of things given enough time and practice.
It was a difficult time for me emotionally because I was used to being able to do everything perfectly. I would get frustrated with myself, but the nurses’ encouragement and the support of my family, with whom I’m really close, kept me going. While I was recovering, my parents adapted a garage on the side of their house to be a bedroom and accessible bathroom, so that I could manage on my own. It’s lovely being their neighbour, as we are such a close-knit family unit.
Another friend in a wheelchair introduced me to curling, and I went along to my local club in Lockerbie. I train there regularly now that things have started to open up again after the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve just made the final in a regional competition! In 2020, I was selected to play for England but due to lockdown the competition was cancelled, which was really disappointing.
I’m always keen to challenge myself and push my boundaries. I’m currently the lead in the able-bodied team when I’m competing, as I find the faster pace suits me better. Hopefully we will get the chance to compete internationally again soon.
When I was recovering in hospital, the spinal injury nurses helped me learn how to manage my bladder with an intermittent catheter. It’s quite daunting at first to get used to the idea of a foreign object going up into your body, and whether or not you’ll get it right. But once I started to do it, it wasn’t difficult or painful like I had imagined it would be. At first, I worried about having accidents, and about whether I was drinking too much or not enough. Over time, however, I started to learn what my body needed.
Like my nurses told me, it takes time and practice to get to know what works for you. For example, like everyone else, if I have a coffee I’m likely to need to empty my bladder about an hour afterwards. Or if it’s cold, I’ll need to go more often than when it’s warm. In the beginning, I used to empty my bladder every four hours, but now I can predict when I will need to go based on what my own body does.
Before the accident I took my body for granted like most people, and didn’t really take the time to get to know it. My advice to anyone is to learn about your body, what’s normal and what’s not. For those who have spinal injuries and use catheters, if your urine looks cloudy, get it checked out. If there’s more or less urine than normal, get it checked out. Listen to what your body is telling you and don’t bury your head in the sand. Your body is the home you have to live in for the rest of your life. It’s important to get to pay attention to it.
This idea really hit home for me in 2018, when I was 27 years old and on bed rest (having been a little bit too active!). I was cold, so I tucked my hands under my armpits to keep warm. Because I was lying down, I noticed a lump in my breast about the size of a golf ball. I had a couple of biopsies and was diagnosed with breast cancer!
I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. The lump had been there a while, but thanks to my understanding of my own body I managed to find it and get it treated. I’m in remission now, and have been for three years. Using my catheter during chemotherapy was quite difficult, as I struggled to get rid of all of the waste. I did end up a little more prone to bladder infections, but the clear bags were useful to help monitor my urine, and I ended up managing my infections.
I also snapped my other femur last year (the one I hadn’t damaged in the car accident). It was frustrating, as I had to manage my own physiotherapy at home due to COVID. However, I’ve been told I’ve done a good job and have managed my recovery well. The only thing is the scars don’t quite match on my knees!
I’ve made a lot more friends since the accident. It happened just as I was finishing school and people naturally move on to different friendships in life at that point -- so there are a lot of people who have only known me in a wheelchair. I’m as busy as ever now; my curling gives me a physical boost, as my gym is closed at the moment for refurbishment. I’ve got some great friends and I like to go out with them when I can. I’m also working on renovating a property at the moment, which is challenging with all of the delays brought on by the pandemic. I think I get my energy from my Nan, who is still working in a food factory as a key worker at aged 73 – and there’s no stopping her!
People who provided testimonials received compensation from Hollister Incorporated. The testimonials, statements, and opinions presented are applicable to the people depicted. These testimonials are representative of their experience, but the exact results and experience will be unique and individual to each person.
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