Wheels on on fire

My chair is not a prison, in fact it has given me wings

- Annabelle Moult, 39, Long Crendon, Buckingham­shire

Glugging a glass of water and paracetamo­l, I rubbed my sore head. ‘I’m too old for this!’ I said to my boyfriend Danny, then 22. ‘Hungover?’ he smiled. It was September 2007, I’d just turned 25, and was paying the price of one too many birthday vinos.

A good night’s sleep and I’ll be right as rain, I thought.

But when I woke up for the loo that night, I collapsed in a heap.

‘Danny,’ I cried. ‘I can’t stand up.’

He carried me down to the car and drove me to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

I was admitted for tests, but over the next three days, I went downhill – fast.

Soon I couldn’t even move my legs.

I tried not to panic.

I’d always been a positive person.

Me and Danny worked in operations for a fashion company and had just bought a house.

I’ll get through this, I thought.

But when I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t see anything.

I felt for my mobile and speed-dialled Danny. ‘I’m blind,’ I gasped. Doctors couldn’t explain it, and I was transferre­d to John Radcliffe Hospital, where an MRI showed areas of my brain were swollen.

‘You’ll never see again,’ the doctor explained.

Days earlier, I’d been playing hockey and doing a gym class.

Now I was paralysed from the waist down and blind.

And there were still no answers as to why. Still, I refused to let it beat me.

I was given steroid medication to bring down the swelling in my brain.

Threw myself into physio and began learning to use a wheelchair.

‘I just need to get on with it,’ I told Danny, determined.

Despite the doctor’s

Soon, I couldn’t move my legs. I tried not to panic

warning, my eyesight gradually improved, changing from blackness to grey, then a blurry outline.

It wasn’t much, but it gave me hope.

In February 2008, I left hospital and me and Danny moved into a converted room in my parents’ garage.

By now, the steroids had made my weight balloon from 10st to over 18st.

‘If you don’t want to stay, I won’t hold it against you,’ I told Danny.

‘I’m staying,’ he smiled back. Even with my jelly belly and moon face, he loved me. A few days later, I was back at work part-time. I refused to let my wheelchair become some sad, lonely prison, and there was one thing

I was determined to do. Go to Jamaica!

We’d booked a holiday before I’d fallen ill. ‘Let’s do it,’ Danny said. So that September, he wheeled me on board the plane, and we spent two sun-filled weeks together.

Danny didn’t complain once about carrying me into the pool every five minutes.

It took two years to get a diagnosis, but in 2009 doctors explained I had a rare autoimmune condition called neuromyeli­tis optica, where the immune system attacks and damages the spinal cord and nerves of the eyes.

No one knew what triggered it, or if I’d get any better.

But in September 2011, I wheeled myself down the aisle to marry Danny.

And that was just the start of our adventures.

Since then, we’ve travelled all over the world – 17 countries so far.

Visiting amazing places like Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Japan, Sydney and Hawaii!

It’s tricky sometimes, but we make it work.

Thanks to yoga, pushing laps, HIIT classes and body strengthen­ing, I’ve gone from fat to fit in a wheelchair, too, and I’m back to 10st.

I gave up my job in January 2020, and now mentor other wheelchair users and people suffering with chronic illnesses.

‘Life will be OK,’

I assure them. ‘Take each day at a time and keep moving forward.’

In fact, life can be wonderful in a wheelchair.

I know mine is.

 ?? ?? Marrying my wonderful Danny
Marrying my wonderful Danny
 ?? ?? A heartfelt message to the NHS in 2020
A heartfelt message to the NHS in 2020
 ?? ?? Life is for living!
Life is for living!
 ?? ?? In Sydney with Danny in 2019
In Sydney with Danny in 2019
 ?? ?? Keeping fit and fabulous...
Keeping fit and fabulous...
 ?? ?? Sitting pretty in Dorset...
Sitting pretty in Dorset...
 ?? ?? ...and on a roll at a party
...and on a roll at a party
 ?? ?? In Thailand in 2006, a year before I fell ill
In Thailand in 2006, a year before I fell ill

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