Avid gym-goer, 27, is left paralysed OVERNIGHT after pins and needles turned out to be a sign of a devastating blood clot on her spine
- Olivia Langley, 27, went to bed perfectly healthy on August 21 this year
- She woke up with back pain and numbness in her legs, and rushed to hospital
- MRI showed a mass on her spine, which turned out to be a haematoma
- It had caused a spinal cord injury, paralysing Ms Langley from the waist down
- Doctors say Ms Langley has just a two per cent chance of walking again
- The bookkeeper and her boyfriend, Tom, had just bought their dream home
A gym bunny has been left paralysed overnight after pins and needles turned out to be a sign of a devastating blood clot on her spine.
Olivia Langley, 27, had no health complaints when she went to bed on August 21 this year. She was woken up by pack pain, for which she took ibuprofen.
But when pins and needles struck and her legs began to feel numb over the next hour, she suspected something was very wrong.
Ms Langley alerted her boyfriend, Tom, and was rushed to hospital where an MRI scan showed a worrying mass on her spine.
It was later revealed to be a haematoma, or blood clot – which caused a spinal cord injury, leaving her paralysed from the waist down.
Doctors determined the blood clot must have formed very quickly, given how rapidly the bookkeeper became ill. But they still do not know why it happened.
She has been given a two per cent chance of walking again and will likely need round-the-clock care for the rest of her life, but is determined to stay independent.
The couple had just bought their dream house in Newark, Nottinghamshire, before Ms Langley’s ordeal. They are now raising funds to renovate to accommodate her needs.
Olivia Langley, 27, had just bought her dream home with her boyfriend, Tom, in Newark, Nottinghamshire, before she suddenly was paralysed from the waist down
At hospital, it was revealed Ms Langley had a haematoma, or blood clot, on her spine, which caused a spinal cord injury, leaving her paralysed from the waist down
Ms Langley was raced to theatre to have a four-hour operation, which saw surgeons ‘drill’ into her spine to remove the mass. She is pictured in hospital
Ms Langley said: ‘I went to the gym five times a week, looked after myself and had loads of outdoorsy hobbies. This just goes to show that it can happen to anybody.
‘Nobody knows what will happen next, or whether or not I will walk again. The main thing for me is to keep my independence.
‘This has been so hard on my family and Tom. You never think at 26 you’ll be dealing with your girlfriend becoming paralysed overnight.
‘Sometimes I feel like I’ve ruined his life, but he has been there, carrying on beside me – and that’s more than I could ever ask for.’
She added: ‘This has all been so incredibly shocking. People often think a spinal cord injury happens after a fall or some trauma – but they can affect anybody. I had no signs or symptoms at all until that night.’
Ms Langley was preparing to sit accountancy exams and progress in her career before her ordeal began that night in August.
Ms Langley said: ‘I went to the gym five times a week, looked after myself and had loads of outdoorsy hobbies. This just goes to show that it can happen to anybody’
Ms Langley woke up with back pain, for which she took ibuprofen. But when pins and needles struck and her legs began to feel numb, she suspected something was very wrong. She is pictured in hospital
Doctors determined the blood clot which must have formed very quickly, given how rapidly Ms Langley, pictured with her parents, fell ill. But they still do not know why it happened
WHAT IS A SPINAL HAEMATOMA?
A spinal haematoma is a collection of blood that compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Significant compression of the spinal cord can result in irreversible neurological damage.
Symptoms may include pain, weakness, numbness, difficulty walking, loss of bowel and/or bladder control, or paralysis.
Without treatment, permanent loss of neurological function or paralysis may occur.
Anything that results in haemorrhage around the spinal cord may produce a spinal haematoma.
Source: Princeton Neurological Surgery
Ms Langley said: ‘I felt totally normal leading up to what happened. There was no reason to suspect what was coming.
‘As a teenager, I’d had a few back problems like muscle spasms, so I assumed it was that.
‘I took some ibuprofen and got Tom to hold some frozen peas against my back. But over the next hour or so, the pain got worse, and I got pins and needles in my legs before they went numb.
‘I knew then that something really wasn’t right.’
After phoning 999, Ms Langley was taken to King’s Mill Hospital, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, by ambulance. An MRI scan revealed a mass was restricting blood flow to her spinal cord.
She said: ‘I was in so much shock over how I’d been fine just a few hours before, and it was all happening so quickly that I didn’t have time to really process it.
‘I wasn’t in the frame of mind to fathom it. It was terrifying, but I just went along with what doctors were telling me.’
Ms Langley was transferred to the more specialist Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham, where she was raced down to theatre.
Surgeons ‘drilled’ into her spine to remove the mass in an emergency four-hour operation on August 22.
‘The focus at first was just getting rid of the haematoma before it got any worse,’ said Ms Langley.
The couple, who have been together for two years, found a property – a new-build three bed – in summer 2019. But before they could move in, Ms Langley was in hospital
Ms Langley had a four-hour operation which saw surgeons ‘drill’ into her spine to remove the mass. But sadly the damage had been done and she was left paraplegic. She is pictured in hospital in a wheelchair with Tom
‘Paralysis had been on my mind as, when I arrived at hospital, I’d been unable to feel my legs. But I thought that the feeling would come back after my surgery.
‘It was only when I came round and a doctor came to see me that it dawned on me it might not.’
Following her operation, doctors told Ms Langley that she had sustained a serious spinal cord injury.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury every year across the world.
An estimated 50,000 Britons and 290,000 Americans are living with a spinal cord injury.
It has left Ms Langley paraplegic – the lower half of her body is paralysed.
For the next six weeks, Ms Langley remained in QMC, recovering and building up her strength before being transferred once again.
This time she went to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital in South Yorkshire for rehabilitation, where she remains today.
‘There’s still no set answer about my paraplegia and whether I will ever walk again,’ she said. ‘Spinal cord injuries are very complex, and every case is different.
‘At my last appointment, I was told that, although doctors are really pleased with the progress I am making in physiotherapy, I am working with a one to two per cent chance of walking again right now.
‘It’s all those little things people take for granted and don’t even think of that have been the hardest.
‘For example, my stomach muscles have gone so I can’t hold myself up without leaning on somebody.’
On the rehabilitation ward, Ms Langley’s days are made up of a timetable of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and optional extras like hydrotherapy.
She said: ‘As soon as I was able to do so, I signed up to do some sports. It’s helped get me active again, and also meet some people going through the same thing.
Ms Langley said: ‘There’s still no set answer about my paraplegia and whether I will ever walk again. Spinal cord injuries are very complex, and every case is different’
Because Ms Langley is paralysed from the waist down, her stomach muscles are also unable to support her. On the rehabilitation ward, her days are made up of a timetable of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and optional extras like hydrotherapy. She is pictured in a wheelchair
Ms Langley is determined to stay independent, with her new home being adapted for her needs. She hopes to one day drive again in a special car and have children, but it is not clear if she will ever walk again. She is pictured on an outing from hospital
‘Although I haven’t been able to meet many other young women, which has been hard.
‘It does give me hope to see people coming out the other side of a spinal cord injury and rebuilding their lives, but it would help to talk to other young women like me.’
One particularly challenging part of Ms Langley’s ordeal has been the thought that it may potentially affect her chances of having children – something she had always dreamed of.
Fertility and sexual function may be affected by a spinal cord injury, but it is not clear if this is the case for Ms Langley.
She said: ‘I very much envisaged being a mum, but that’s now a long way in the future.
‘I have to get myself back to where I want to be, and feel able to look after myself before I can think about looking after a child.
‘Plus when that day comes, I will likely need carers to help me, which is something I find difficult as independence is so important to me.’
Ms Langley has a provisional discharge date of December 3, which doctors are confident she will meet – meaning she will be home for Christmas.
Her plan once she leaves hospital is to live with her parents while the home she bought with Tom – a new-build three bed – is being adapted to cater for her new needs.
Her best friend Rosie Bown set up a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of the alterations, equipment, such as a lightweight wheelchair and standing frame, and ongoing physiotherapy.
Already, more than £4,000 has been donated, and her loved ones have also planned a string of fundraising events.
Ms Langley said of Tom: ‘Sometimes I feel like I’ve ruined his life, but he has been there, carrying on beside me – and that’s more than I could ever ask for’
‘This has turned everybody’s lives upside down, not just mine, but my loved ones have been my rock.’
Once home, Ms Langley has vowed to grow as strong as possible in the hope that she will one day be able to enjoy the hobbies she once loved, like the gym or exploring the countryside.
She added: ‘While nobody can say for sure what will happen in the future, I believe you get out what you put in, so I am doing everything I can to work hard and get strong.
‘I’m determined to keep my independence, even if that means doing things differently. For example, I want to drive again, so have a plan to get a specially adapted car.
‘It’s really important to have goals – however small they may seem – to get through.
‘I can’t wait to be in the home Tom and I bought together. When I envisaged moving in to my first house with him, it wasn’t like this at all.
‘I just want to work as hard as I can to get home in time for Christmas.’
To donate to Ms Langley’s page, visit here.
WHAT IS A SPINAL CORD INJURY?
A spinal cord injury — damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) — often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.
Ability to control limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on the place of the injury and the severity of injury to the spinal cord.
The lowest normal part of your spinal cord is referred to as the neurological level of your injury.
The severity of the injury is often called ‘the completeness’ and is classified as either of the following:
Complete: If the patient has all feeling (sensory) and all ability to control movement (motor function) lost below the spinal cord injury, the injury is called complete.
Incomplete: If the patient has some motor or sensory function below the affected area, the injury is called incomplete. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury.
Additionally, paralysis from a spinal cord injury may be referred to as:
Tetraplegia: Also known as quadriplegia, means that the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the spinal cord injury.
Paraplegia: This paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs.
Spinal cord injuries may result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself.
A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of the vertebrae.
It may also result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts the spinal cord.
Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord.
A nontraumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or disk degeneration of the spine.
Source: Mayo Clinic
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