A cy­clist left paral­ysed in crash launches spinal cord in­jury blog

SCI­EN­TIST AND IT SLIGO LEC­TURER GERAL­DINE LAVELLE FRAC­TURED HER NECK IN A BI­CY­CLE CRASH. SHE TALKS TO EDITOR JENNY MCCUDDEN ABOUT HER NEW BLOG AND HOW HER LIFE HAS CHANGED

The Sligo Champion - - NEWS - BY JENNY MCCUDDEN

A cy­clist left paral­ysed from the chest down af­ter a col­li­sion with a lorry has started a blog about liv­ing with a spinal cord in­jury with the aim of help­ing oth­ers who find them­selves in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Geral­dine Lavelle who lives in Cheshire Home Sligo - a sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion for peo­ple with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties - be­lieves her new blog will be of great ben­e­fit.

“Al­ready, the feed­back has been phenom­e­nal,” she says, “With so much traf­fic di­rected to the site. I’m re­ally en­cour­aged. It has soared in re­cent weeks. Nurses have been in touch to say they are show­ing it to their pa­tients.”

A few years ago 30-year-old Geral­dine was a pa­tient with a spinal cord in­jury and re­calls a time of ut­ter con­fu­sion and fear.

“I had my ac­ci­dent on 31st Oc­to­ber 2013 on the Long­ford by­pass. I re­mem­ber ly­ing on the side of the road feel­ing numb,” she says. Af­ter be­ing air­lifted to hos­pi­tal she had to un­dergo ma­jor surgery: “I did not re­alise the im­pact of my in­juries un­til af­ter the op­er­a­tion. The Con­sul­tant came in and said ‘you will never walk again.’ It was so blunt. I started bawl­ing cry­ing. I asked him ‘was he sure be­cause I could walk a day ago?’ I told him he must have ‘ the wrong per­son.’ ”

Geral­dine who lec­tures at IT Sligo de­scribes the fol­low­ing weeks and months as the hard­est of her life: “You are left won­der­ing where do you go from here? You can’t move and you are think­ing what will hap­pen to my life now?”

For the next ten months qual­i­fied sci­en­tist Geral­dine who had been work­ing in Ab­bott, was in re­hab. It was dur­ing the last few weeks there that her strong will and de­ter­mi­na­tion took over.

As she ex­plains: “When they told me I was not go­ing to get any bet­ter, that they had done all they pos­si­bly could for me, it was hard to ac­cept my lim­i­ta­tions. “But I de­cided that this was not go­ing to be the end for me. I choose not to go back to my par­ent’s home in the coun­try side out­side Castle­bar. In­stead I opted to go to Sligo and got a place in the Cheshire Home.”

Slowly but surely Geral­dine started to ad­just to her new way of liv­ing. She re­turned to work in Ab­bott Sligo but left when a lec­tur­ing role came up at IT Sligo.

The blog called spinal­cordinjury.ie is some­thing that was al­ways at the back of her mind.

“I would take notes ev­ery now and then since this hap­pened. I started a Face­book page first and got 4,000 fol­low­ers and then launched the blog about three months ago.

“If I put my­self back in ICU I did not know where to turn. This web­site with ev­ery­thing I have learned over the last four years is ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple at the click of a but­ton. I hope that this can help peo­ple start­ing out on that jour­ney.”

A re­mark­ably pos­i­tive per­son Geral­dine cred­its her fam­ily, friends and the wider com­mu­nity who fundraised on her be­half for her re­cov­ery.

“I’m blessed with the sup­port

WHEN YOU SEE THE LOVE IN PEO­PLE’S EYES, IT TELLS YOU THAT THEYARE JUST SO HAPPY THAT YOU ARE STILL HERE

I have. The peo­ple I’m close to helped show me that there is more to life, that I am still here and try­ing to get on with it,” she ex­plains.

“What other op­tion did I have, stay in bed and cry all day? You do go through that too. But it’s when you see the love in peo­ple’s eyes telling you that they are just so happy that you are still here, that’s when you re­alise that things can get back to a level of nor­mal­ity. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be much more chal­leng­ing but that’s why you sur­round your­self with peo­ple who care,” adds Geral­dine.

The NUI Gal­way grad­u­ate ad­mits that the trou­bles she had be­fore the ac­ci­dent pale into in­signif­i­cance when it comes to what she has since en­dured.

“What was I com­plain­ing about?” she asks, “I had ev­ery­thing but you al­ways find prob­lems. Now I have much more to com­plain about and I just get on with it.”

There are cer­tain things that this brave young woman misses about the life she once had. Geral­dine says she was a ‘gym bunny’ and loved to ex­er­cise.

“I still get out ev­ery day and push my chair on a 5k walk down by River­side and I’m plan­ning to take up swim­ming. But I do miss go­ing for a run or a cy­cle. I may not have climbed a lot of moun­tains but I miss hav­ing the op­tion. I might have never done it but I al­ways had the choice,” she says.

Liv­ing in Sligo has its ben­e­fits for Geral­dine who loves the peo­ple and the place. How­ever she would like to progress from Cheshire Home to have a place to truly call her own one day.

“The staff are won­der­ful and it is great to have the sup­port but I would love some pri­vacy and to have my own apart­ment.”

Ac­cess to an Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist is also not al­ways easy. “My OT left and has not been re­placed and I’m not deemed a pri­or­ity,” she says.

De­spite the draw­backs, Geral­dine con­cludes: “I would love to set­tle here. The peo­ple are lovely, very help­ful and friendly. The col­lege has a great at­mos­phere and is ac­ces­si­ble. I like be­ing among aca­demics and peo­ple who get the whole geeky science world!”

Geral­dine Lavelle pic­tured last week at River­side, where she pushes her chair for a daily 5k.

Geral­dine (right) at a con­cert

Geral­dine in hos­pi­tal.

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