Mom who broke her back in four places on horseback stuns doctors on getting up
Looking at the bright hospital lights above her bed, Juli Hogg felt tears run down her face.
She wanted to wipe them off, but couldn’t. A dark-faced doctor had just explained that she was now paralyzed and was unlikely to walk again.
Juli had broken his back in four places, partially severed his spinal cord, broken several ribs and had internal bleeding. The fact that she was still alive was a miracle.
A seasoned rider, she was out near her house when the horse she was riding raced, then stumbled, knocking Juli to the ground before he stepped on her.
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“I knew I was badly injured because I couldn’t move, but when the hospital doctor told me he doubted I would ever walk again, I was stunned and then angry. Says Juli, 54, who has two children.
“I had a family and they needed me. I would like walk again.
The horrific accident happened in September 2020. Fortunately, a dog walker and another rider saw what had happened and one called an ambulance while the other called Juli’s family.
“I wasn’t in pain, but I couldn’t move,” Juli said. “I knew my legs were in a strange position.
I felt a strange heat all over my body, then nothing. I was numb.
Paramedics took her to Hull Royal Infirmary, where she was greeted by husband Simon, 54, son Jackson, 25, and daughter, Eve, 23. “I was so scared, but there was nothing I could do but wait and hope,” she says.
Covid meant the family had to stay outside while their doctor explained that Juli had damaged the C1, C3, C4 and T6 vertebrae.
Despite the news, doctors felt she was incredibly lucky: injuries to the C1 vertebrae usually leave patients in need of a ventilator.
Thirty-five people suffer from spinal cord injury every week in the UK, and around 50,000 people live with spinal cord injuries in the country.
Juli was sedated and transferred to intensive care to be stabilized for surgery.
Two weeks later, she was transferred from the ICU, but she and her doctor avoided surgery in favor of a conservative management approach.
She would be supported flat on her back in a splint so her spine could repair itself without surgery.
“It was a risk, but so was the surgery,” says Juli. “One wrong move and it could be worse, not better. I decided to let nature do its best.
Two weeks later, she was transferred to a specialized spinal rehabilitation unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
“I had always been able to roughly move my toes – it gave me hope that maybe one day I would walk again, even if it seemed impossible,” she said.
Her injuries prevented Juli from feeding, sitting or bathing – she was totally dependent on the nursing staff. The pandemic meant all visitors were banned – her family could only see her through a service window.
“I had desperately low points where it seemed like everything was too hard,” she recalls. “I was too weak. I had to relearn everything – my body had forgotten everything.
Despite daily physical therapy, her progress was slow and she feared that her paralyzed body had been forced into submission.
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The first time the rehabilitation team raised her mechanical bed so that she was lying upright, she vomited and then passed out.
A few days later they tried again and this time she was successful for 10 minutes – that was a start.
“Each day brought little milestones, whether it was the smallest movement of my arm or a sensation in my leg, every sensation mattered,” she says.
“Simon and the kids would come to me through the service window and I would show them what I could do.
Four months after her accident on Jan. 22, with a walker for support and a rehabilitation nurse on either side of her, Juli took her very shaky first step.
“It was a very emotional day,” she says. “I cried, the nurses cried and we all hugged.”
Still far from any independence, after a month in the unit, she left to continue her rehabilitation at home.
Back in Ellerton, near York, Juli began three sessions per week with a team of musculoskeletal and neurological physiotherapists at Flex Health in Hull.
From being in a wheelchair to being able to stand on her own, she has made steady progress.
In March, she launched a fundraiser on Facebook to be sponsored to walk 1,000 steps a day for a month to raise money for the spine injury charity that supported her at the hospital.
“It was a challenge – some days doing it almost killed me,” she says. “But I wanted to do something for the people who had helped me.”
She recorded her daily steps and raised £ 4,100.
Her determination amazed her family, her doctor and her physiotherapists. Last month, she returned to see her original A&E consultant. “I walked into his office and he couldn’t believe it was me,” she recalls. “I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Physically, I’ll never be the woman I was before, but every step I take is for my family – I couldn’t have done it without them.
“Ultimately, I want to return to the spinal rehabilitation unit as a charitable volunteer to show other patients that there is hope. I was like them and I walk again.
- For help and support with spinal injuries, visit spinal.co.uk
Juli raises funds to help SURF (Spinal Unit Recreational Fund) which raises funds for the staff and patients of the Spinal Unit in Pinderfield in Yorkshire. To donate, visit Just Giving and search for Juli Hogg, Crowdfunding and the Pinderfield Spinal Unit.