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Spinal Cord Injuries

My relationship with friends and family after a spinal cord injury.

I am often asked how I have coped over the last 13 years, and quite simply, it’s all down to my family and close friends who have been there alongside me for the highs and lows. There have been a lot of tears but also a great deal of laughter; I have a very dry sense of humour, so I find the most inappropriate things funny!

When I sustained my injury, I was still living at home with my parents, 18-year-old brother Spud (his real name is Craig, but I never call him that) and 9-year-old Conner. My injury had a massive impact on all of those around me, especially on my family.

I have the most amazing parents. They have put their lives on hold to look after me. We are extremely close, and I know they would have done the same thing for either of my brothers. My mum is my best friend and there’s not much about me that she doesn’t know (not all by choice, may I add!). I’m very much like my dad, so we butt heads a lot, but I know he carries a great deal of guilt regarding my injury. He dropped me off at my boyfriend’s house on his way to work the night of the collision, but if he hadn’t have dropped me off, I would have still gone out; I’d have simply just got a taxi instead.

Both of my brothers still treat me exactly as they have always done; there is often a joke told at my expense! But I know that when it comes down to it, they’re always there for me, just as I would be for them.

Uncle Nicky is my mum’s older brother and has always been like an older brother to me. He would take us swimming and for walks when I was little, and as he lived with my nanna and grandad, he was always there when I stayed over. He spent a lot of time with me in the hospital during the months following my injury and would drive mum to Sheffield a few times a week. He would spend Thursday nights with me eating sweets and watching rubbish TV! He pops round for a cup of tea quite often and is always on hand if my dad needs a hand with anything in my garden. I really appreciate all he has done and continues to do for me.

I have always had a special relationship with my mum’s parents, Nanna Louise and Grandad Frank. I would stay at their house on the weekend from being really young. My grandad has always said that their social life on a Saturday night ended as soon as I came along, and we would spend our time in front of the TV watching old classics like Blind Date and Casualty. I briefly lived with them for a year while I attended Sixth Form in Knaresborough, but after a while, I decided I wanted to start working, so I moved back home with my parents. I still continued to visit them as often as I could to have a cup of tea and a catch-up.

We started to notice nanna acting differently while I was in the hospital, and it wasn’t long until my family realised her absent memory was much more than her getting older, and she was diagnosed with Dementia in August 2014.

Since I was a child, my other grandparents have lived in Scotland, so we got to see them when we went up to stay at theirs or when they would come back down to Yorkshire; normally when there was a special family occasion. Two weeks before the collision, I decided at the last minute to join my parents and youngest brother to go up to see them. I still remember our visit to Holy Island and Edinburgh. It was as if that last-minute decision was meant to be as we had a lovely time together.

My grandparents live in a little village next to the A9, so with it not being very accessible and too far to visit for the day, I’m unable to go up to see them and stay near them nowadays. Sadly, they have aged too and don’t drive anymore, so rely on my dad to collect them and bring them down here to Yorkshire to visit.

As many will experience, when they are growing, their friendship groups change. After my injury, I could no longer do the things that I used to do with my friends, but I still kept in touch with a few of the girls, especially on social media when I was in the hospital, and still do. I have a small group of close friends; some I have been friends with since I was a child. As a few of my friends now have children, I’ve gained a few more little friends too and love the time we get to spend together!

My parents’ friends and their children are like family to me and are always there for us whenever we need them, just as we are there for them. As a family, we are really grateful for all the support they have given us over the years.

Through Spud’s marriage, I have gained a lovely sister-in-law, Katie. I also have a 7-year-old niece, Mollie, and a 1-year-old nephew, George. Mollie is the funniest little girl, and my mum used to call her my twin when she was younger as she twiddled her hair just like I did before my injury and can also roll her eyes perfectly!

I really missed my family during lockdown, especially seeing George growing up as he was born at the start of lockdown. Thanks to FaceTime, we got to see him, although it wasn’t quite the same. When lockdown finished, we got together as a family as much as possible. My mum has George every Tuesday, so he often comes to my house to play. He’s growing up to be just as cheeky as his sister!

My younger brother, Conner, spent a lot of the first couple of years after my injury visiting me in different hospitals. He adapted to hospital life quite easily because he was so young (by that, I mean spending his nights after school/weekends/school holidays). He got along really well with the nurses looking after me, the other patients in the vent room and their families. He’s said that he doesn’t really remember me before my injury, which I think is very sad.

I believe that things happen for a reason, and my injury was always going to happen. As I mentioned earlier, I went on a last-minute trip to Scotland with my parents and Conner the week before the collision. We had a great time and lots of fun. This was followed by a trip to Flamingo Land a few days later, where Conner went on his first rollercoasters. I’ll never forget that day, even if Conner doesn’t remember it. It was as if we were meant to have that time together.

He is now 22, has a lovely girlfriend, Holly, and they’re saving for a house. I have been told that I spoil Conner, and possibly so, but I think I do it because I feel guilty that his life since my injury has been so different from the one he would have had if I had just paid attention that night.

Every year we like to throw a big Halloween party at my house that’s just as much for the adults as it is for the kids if I’m honest. All of the kids of my family and friends are invited, my parents turn my house into a haunted house, we have a DJ, lots of games for the kids, and everyone gets to dress up. I love having everyone around and we all really enjoy the evening.

By working with Rebecca on our Road Safety Talks project, we have met some amazing people who have become really good friends. This group of people now has the nickname ‘Team Lauren.’ Made up of police officers who were at the scene of the collision, or who escorted my parents to the hospital, to colleagues who we have met through working in the local area. We are all linked by the worst day of my life, but all share the same passion for raising road safety awareness. We also have amazing nights out together!

When I’m not busy working, I spend most of my time with my carers and my close family. My grandad comes round every afternoon for a cup of tea, to watch TV with me and just chat. I love this time with him.

My care team mean a great deal to me, and because they work 12-hour shifts, we often spend a lot of time together. If we didn’t get on so well, it would be a bit awkward! Quite a few of my carers have been here for years, so they have become part of the family. They see me on my good days, bad days, sad days, and happy days!

People come into your life for a reason. They might not know it themselves, why. You might not know it. But there’s a reason.

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