Never Give Up is the inspiring story of how Kate Webber overcame adversity. She writes:
Sometimes we find ourselves in an inconvenient position we hadn’t planned or. When control of your life has been taken out of your hands it is at best inconvenient and at worse can result in you becoming very depressed at the new position you find yourself in.
That happened to me, well us, my accident didn’t just happen to me. When my partner found me not breathing and I was airlifted to hospital and put on life support, it was easy for me. I was unconscious while my partner looked on, his strong character crumbling as he couldn’t help or change what was happening.
I’m nearly completely better now but what followed was two years of frustration and tears and during that time I so wished I had someone to talk to who could in some way know what it was like to have your life changed in an instant. And that’s the reason for this blog, if this resonates with you in any way, I want to be there for you to talk to. I am here to help you never give up.
We came to France after several life changes, divorce and the death of my amazing sister. We wanted to stop striving for that bigger house, nicer car and matching china on the table. We didn’t need much and wanted to find a way to live simply so, like loads of Brits, we bought a tumbling down old building and set about restoring what had quickly become our passion and obsession.
Then it happened. We had gone for a ride on my old mare and a new horse we were hoping to make into a nice riding horse for Chris. Neither of us know why they spooked and bolted, we were standing still as I was checking the old mares bridle, close to home, wearing riding hats. I have no memory of this or of how I came off and Chris didn’t see me fall.
The first stages in hospital - never give up
I was on life support for three days until I could breathe for myself and eventually came round. Somehow I had hit my head and my brain and eyes where what came off the worse. I lost my memory and one eye was paralysed closed with the iris in what doctors helpfully called, ‘ the down and out position’. There was no coordination or strength down the whole of my right side. It took about ten days for me to be strong enough to leave the hospital where Chris hadn’t left my side, relying of a friend who had come to stay to bring in clean clothes for him. He was another one who would never give up.
It was about a week after coming home that I have my first memory, even though there are pictures of me sitting up in bed and smiling crookedly, I can’t remember anything until one day I was struggling to get out of the bath and Chris was calling from the next room for me to stay there, he was coming to help me.
Chris and Kate
The nightmare started then for me. My brain wasn’t functioning very well at all, I kept calling Chris by my ex-husbands name and every movement was hard. Chris did everything, he’d cook me a meal and put it in front of me and I’d cry daily with the effort of trying to feed myself. I’d never known fatigue like it, in fact before my accident I just couldn’t see why fatigue could be such a problem, you just went for a lay down right? Now the effort of rising a fork from a plate to my mouth was too much to contemplate. I’d eat what I could then go to bed and sleep for hours. On waking up, from the moment my eyes were open, life was difficult. This wasn’t an injury I could take pain killers for and hopefully forget about, it for even a short while, if I sat in the right position. Opening my right eye was like lifting a heavy weight, I began to be able to open it a tiny bit but the image of the world was like a broken jigsaw that moved.
Sometimes I’d tape my paralysed eye lid open and go for a walk, I thought if I could get myself a bit more physically fit again, I’d start to heal quicker. I could hardly have looked worse. Wherever my left eye looked, my right eye refused to follow. The sight from the eye was still good but my vision was horrendous. Double vision isn’t just seeing two of things. With my eyes the two images were not parallel, that would be difficult enough but the image from my right eye was completely on it’s side and slightly over my left eye image. Imagine seeing two roads ahead of you, the road on your left is where you expect it to be, the right hand road is on it’s side, overlapping the left road with all the traffic, trees, signs and everything around it in the same position, on it’s side. With my eyelid taped open I’d walk around our four hectare property with Chris watching nervously from a window. I fell over countless times, got up, cried and carried on. Usually I’d arrive home crying with frustration, poor Chris didn’t know what to do.
I was angry as well, furious with the world and impatient to get better, I know I was horrible to live with.
I tried to read which foods would help with fatigue and healing but reading was nearly impossible. Chris bought me a range of eye patches, if I patched my right eye, my whole body relaxed as I saw how I used to see, it was beautiful and like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I discussed it with a few people and decided an eye patch wasn’t so bad so began to wear it occasionally to give me a rest from my dreadful sight. People stared at me in the street and when I opened the door to a friend she physically reeled back, she was so shocked. Someone else thought it was a strange fashion accessory so I gave up and only wore the patches when I was alone.
I may have given up with the eye patches but I would never give up in trying to get better.
I was depressed and frightened and very, very angry that my life had changed and I seemed to have no control, no matter what I read or ate or did and being in France where I had only just begun to learn the language made it much harder.
Seemingly, with the speed of watching a tree grow, I started to get better, it was so slow I could barely see it happening. I took endless films on my phone of my eyes, moving up and down, left to right. My eyelid began to open more on it’s own and my right eye was becoming more reactive. I’ve kept those short films but I can’t watch them, it’s too sad. Perhaps there needs to be more distance between being so ill and getting better.
On recommendation from my therapist, who I had started going to far later than I should have, I went to see an eye specialist. I felt well looked after as I endured up to five hours of tests at each appointment. The close up film of my eye movements provided measured evidence that my eyes were improving but it was so slow and I was still very depressed. The Doctor eventually said he believed I would be a good candidate for an operation. Going to a hospital, having a general anaesthetic and an operation when you could barely understand what anyone was saying was daunting, but I was desperate.
The operation changed my double vision so the two images were at least almost parallel.
I continued to improve and another operation was talked about but later dismissed as they were not sure if I could make any further progress.
Depressing again. Was this it? Was this me? For the rest of my life? Would I ever drive again? Would I ever be able to carry my granddaughter down some steps? Would I ever be independent?
It was like watching a tree grow
Today, Kate is almost completely better
And then somehow I became very, very grateful because there are lot’s of people worse off than me. And of course thinking of my sister who didn’t get the choice of this life or no life at all, she had no choice in having cancer with a heartbreaking death.
It’s so important to never give up.
Yup, I never thought I would say it but I’m lucky and out of respect for those who didn’t get this lucky, I decided to just keep on trying to get better. My body got stronger, coordination much better and my sight kept very slowly improving. I started the Couch to 5K app which is an app you can put on your phone to encourage you to keep going as you attempt to get fit, the idea being that anybody could eventually get off their couch and run 5K. It starts with just one minute of running spurts between five minutes of walking for twenty minutes with a five minute warm up and cool down. You do this every other day and the times running very gradually increase. But it was too much for me even ten months after the accident and I gave up when I kept falling over. But a lovely lady came especially to walk with me once a week and gradually my fitness improved. I was so grateful to this stranger, now a friend who gave up her time to come and walk with me. English people living in France seem to be driven to help each other, thats one of the things I have noticed since living here.
There are lovely walks nearby
Eighteen months after the accident I decided to give the Couch to 5k app a try again and I’m very proud to say I’ve completed it, finishing by being able to run for twenty minutes non stop. I never wanted to be a runner and I’m not now, but I wanted to get better and needed a goal to achieve, so by myself I took the advice more slowly than the app suggested, I was determined to work through it, I needed to find something to be proud of myself about, I needed to achieve something after so long of my mind and body taking control over me, I needed to feel back in control of it again.
Today, two years and two months later, I’m driving again, my coordination is better and I don’t suffer from fatigue! Oh I wish you knew how good it feels to say that! Chris my loving partner managed to stay and wait for ‘me’ to come back. We’re very behind with getting the building ready to rent out and are therefore quite broke but we’ve started a new business and my brain has been in intense exercise as I worked out how to make a website.
Life staled for a while. It was hard, very hard and if I had been that friend that I longed for when I was so ill, I would have hugged the broken Kate and said, “Just wait, just settle and be. Stop trying, just be”.
Never give up.
It took two years, but I’m back, I’m really back.