From paral­y­sis to Round the Bays run­ner


A few years ago Pearl Free­man­tle couldn’t go to the toi­let alone, walk, hold a con­ver­sa­tion or even read a book.

Last month the 59- year- old grand­mother com­pleted the 6.5-kilo­me­tre Welling­ton Round the Bays fun run.

‘‘I know what en­dor­phins feel like and it wasn’t that. This was the sat­is­fac­tion of start­ing and fin­ish­ing some­thing I was told I wouldn’t do again,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s that sheer en­joy­ment of just know­ing you can.’’

Do­ing noth­ing used to be an ab­stract idea for the Ti­tahi Bay res­i­dent who white­wa­ter rafted, surf kayaked, body­surfed, and did 100 press-ups a day.

Dur­ing a lunchtime run in Septem­ber 2009 Free­man­tle slipped on some slime on a school drive­way, land­ing on both her knees and pop­ping three discs in her back.

So be­gan a battle with ACC, which re­jected her claim, say­ing she had a de­gen­er­a­tive prob­lem.

Free­man­tle was forced to give up her job as a pri­mary school teacher.

‘‘I lived off my sav­ings un­til they were gone. I nearly lost my home. It was a hor­ri­ble and de­mean­ing time.’’

There have been some dark days since then – one time she spent 37 hours in bed paral­ysed, not able to reach the phone on the bed­side ta­ble.

‘‘One time I was stuck on the toi­let for seven hours be­cause the nerve pain was so bad. I was scream­ing out for help and no-one heard me.

‘‘It took me all that time to use the height of my willpower and stub­born­ness to get off.’’

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the ac­ci­dent she could still walk, but in the three months fol­low­ing things grad­u­ally got worse and she of­ten blacked out from con­stant pain that she said was worse than child­birth.

‘‘I had no con­trol over my body. It to­tally changed my life.

‘‘I felt pretty worth­less. There was no re­lease from it. I lost ev­ery­thing and had noth­ing left.’’

She was told her in­jury would only get worse. But her faith and tenac­ity led to her fight­ing the pain to re­gain in­de­pen­dence.

When she dis­cov­ered she could move her toes, she used them to get dressed; when she found she could shuf­fle her feet, she started do­ing her wash­ing again.

With­out strength in her arms, some­times it would take a whole day to do a load of wash­ing, tak­ing items to the line two at a time and us­ing her teeth to peg them up.

‘‘It was just do­ing lit­tle things and build­ing those things up.’’

Six years on, things are fi­nally look­ing up.

Free­man­tle said fin­ish­ing the char­ity fun run last month was just the start.

Last July she took her­self off the sick­ness ben­e­fit and now she’s seek­ing an­other teach­ing job.

She’s also back out on the surf kayak.

‘‘I feel alive now. The pain is still there, but it’s not that raw on fire nerve pain any more.’’

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