Blackpool mum Amanda Hunt had always been fit and healthy – until one morning she woke up completely unable to move.
Her life was turned upside down after a spinal injury, but she has recovered enough to take a charity swim to help others in a similar situation. She took part in the Aspire Channel Swim challenge this year – and will be doing it again this year, calling on local people to join in.
Amanda, now 41, had woken up one morning in May 2013 to begin the usual routine of getting her two children ready for school, when she suddenly felt spasms all along her back and legs. When she finally arrived at work, things had got worse and she was completely unable to walk up the stairs due to the excruciating pain she was feeling.
She was forced to call the doctor and she pleaded with medics to find out what was happening to her body.
Unable to get a diagnosis for the cause of the sudden pain, Amanda spent the next two years visiting her doctor and physiotherapist to try to discover the reason for all the ongoing pain and discomfort. Eventually, much to her relief, Amanda was referred to a spinal specialist in Preston.
Following an MRI scan, Amanda, was told not only had she developed a cyst at the bottom of her spine, but she was also suffering from severely herniated disks, so much so, they had completely squashed the nerves on her right hand side – causing a loss of sensation in her right leg.
Following her diagnosis, Amanda was given two options. It was either surgery or nothing.
Apprehensive about the risks the operation would involve, but knowing something had to be done, Amanda agreed to decompression surgery on September 30, 2015.
The operation involved shaving off the herniated part of her spine to alleviate pressure and allow the brain to send signals to the leg again. Although paralysis from this form of surgery was rare, it was a risk.
Amanda said: “After the operation I was able to start taking baby steps, and I was so relieved finally, I was on the mend.”
Unfortunately, two days after she returned home, Amanda found herself totally unable to move out of bed. One ambulance ride, seven days in hospital and a large amount of morphine later, she was able to go home again, but was told the feeling in her right leg was unlikely to ever return.
With a large support network, and determination, Amanda began taking Pilates classes, where she was told about the benefits of swimming.
“I started getting in the pool in January 2016. I went around three times a week and would try to swim 10 lengths each time. After a few months, my confidence grew and I began toying with variations of strokes.”
It was at the leisure centre she saw a poster for The Aspire Channel Swim. After finding out the charity supported those affected by spinal cord injuries, Amanda knew this challenge was what she needed.
“I felt like the poster was calling out to me, and if I could try and help those who were in a situation similar to mine, I knew I just had to.”
Amanda began going to the leisure centre five times a week – 12 weeks and 22 miles later, she completed the challenge.
“The Aspire Channel Swim was something I so desperately needed, not only did I know I was raising money to help others affected by a spinal cord injury, but it gave me my own purpose and a target to reach.”