A horse riding accident left her paralysed from the chest down, and she found fame by walking the London Marathon in a bionic suit in 2012. Here, in an extract from her autobiography, the inspirational Claire Lomas talks about rebuilding her life after spinal injury …
With a spinal injury it is the shock of so many changes all of a sudden; there is no time to adapt. I felt as if I was going from one bad experience to another. With catheterizing, for example, you are prone to urine infections and the trouble was I didn’t always know when I had mild infections. If I had stayed in hospital longer I might have been more aware of this. The infection causes the bladder to keep emptying so I had days when I would pee myself, struggle in the shower, get dressed, only for it to happen again and again. It was days like this when I lost the will to live; what sort of life was I living?
I would shut myself away and cry until I had no more tears left. I didn’t want to see anyone or do a thing, not even talk on the phone. Then somehow I would find a way of pulling myself out of this self-pitying, depressive state. I don’t know exactly what would make me bounce back, but deep inside me there was the will to fight and not to let my loved ones down.
I knew that I was going to have to try riding again so four months after my accident Tim lent me a quiet skewbald horse to ride called Queenie. She was a gentle girl and suitable for me to try to ride again, but she couldn’t have been more different from my event horses. My first day back in the saddle was in the presence of Selena, Tim and Mum. It was quite an achievement to be back on this early, in lots of ways I was quite proud. Selena snapped away taking photos and we joked about Queenie being my next Burghley horse. It was excellent therapy for core strengthening and improving my balance. I was riding her for half an hour. It gave me some fresh air and exercise but it was far from exciting. My body was broken but my mind remained the same and walking a quiet horse down the road was hardly ever a thrill before my accident.
One of my horses was competing at a local horse trial so we decided to take Queenie to the event for me to ride around. The doctors would have been horrified if they could see what I was up to. I spent most of the day on her. It did feel better than being in the wheelchair because I could chat to friends on an eye-to-eye level instead of looking up, and on a horse you couldn’t tell that I was paralysed. When I got close to the cross-country course Queenie started to get excited. She began to jog and bounce around and whilst it scared me to death, it also gave me the adrenaline rush I so badly needed.
We loaded Queenie back in the lorry and headed over to the score boards. Wheelchairs do not move at all well on grass, and in stony gateways they are even worse. Sue was helping me but we were all novices with wheelchairs. She tripped on a stone and kept hold of me. We ended up with me, still in the wheelchair, lying on top of Sue. I could have died with embarrassment, and hoped nobody had seen us. “Get me up,” I said, “quick!” We brushed ourselves down, kind of chuckled, and carried on.
I had won this event last year on highly rated Bart, but this year was somewhat different. There were no rosettes for managing to shout: “Get me off” when Queenie started to get lit up, or for when I had squashed Sue. Laugh or cry? Both sometimes.
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