Saving My Neck March 6, 2019 00:00

Life is hard. There's no candy-coating it. It's mostly filled with the mundane tasks and challenges that slowly break you down.
And then life likes to throw major challenges at you out of the blue. I'm often left gaping in awe at the wars people face and how they fight their way out of the darkness.
This month I'm highlighting just a few such incredible souls and their very real, very tough journeys in life.
Today I've asked Kate to share her story with you. You might recognise her as the model from my 2019 Valentine's collection. Here's her story...

Kaitlin Rawson


On the 15th of September 2016 I was in a pole class. It was the Thursday night intermediate class and we were learning a new trick - the brass bridge - I got the move fairly quickly and I was so excited and thought it was such a cool move that I asked my sister to take a picture. The instructor who was spotting me stepped back so she wouldn’t be I the photo and as I was holding the pose my leg slipped and I lost all my grip and fell. 
My immediate thought was that I couldn’t feel or move anything. I started shouting out that I couldn’t move. Luckily there was a paramedic in the class and she log-rolled me onto my back while everyone waited for the ambulance. 
The ambulance took me to Olivedale hospital, but they were unable to get a hold of their neurosurgeon, so I was airlifted to Milpark hospital. I was diagnosed with a burst C5 vertebrae. The doctors couldn’t tell us anything about my prognosis at that point. I had to wait a day before going to surgery as they needed to custom make the ‘cage’ that would be placed in my neck to stabilize my spine. In surgery they removed all the bone fragments and fused my C4 to C6 vertebrae together. 
Whenever I tell anyone what happened I usually gloss over the recovery process. I say ‘I spent a week in the ICU and 2 months in a rehabilitation hospital’ and while that is technically true, it is not a completely accurate portrayal of my experience.
That week and those months were without a doubt the hardest of my life. 
The doctors still could not give us a concrete prognosis. They said I might recover completely but there was also the possibility that I would stay as I was then - mostly paralyzed with limited movement on the left side of my body. I tried not to focus on the fact that I might not recover, rather focusing on what I could control, although there were still times that worried that I would never recover. 
My lowest point came one day when I was still in the ICU. I had already been there for a few days and my parents had left to go home the night before. My dad was supposed to come visit me in the morning before work and my mom was going to come a bit later. The nurse woke me up at around 4:30am to wash me and give me my medication. I had just been switched from IV medication to oral medication and was struggling with swallowing the medication as I had a lot of pain in my neck and throat from the operation. On this particular morning the nurse would not raise my bed so that I could be upright while taking the pill but instead gave me the medication while I was still flat on my back, and started pouring water down my throat.
I was unable to swallow the pills and despite my protests to the nurse she continued pouring the water and I ended up gagging and throwing up all over myself.
Puke got into my hair and the neck brace I was wearing. I immediately burst into tears. I wanted my parents there but my dad had still not arrived. My dad, as it turns out was not able to visit me that day, but he had no way of contacting me.
I spent hours lying in the ICU by myself just waiting and hoping that my mom or dad would arrive soon. Eventually my mom's aunt arrived and explained why my parents couldn’t be there that day. 
But even though I had some very low moments I tried my best to stay positive. I had big goals of being able to walk and live and go to university again, but although I let those ideas motivate me I concentrated on the little things and saw every small milestone as a triumph - from holding a water bottle to brushing my hair for the first time.
I used these milestones to motivate me to work harder so that I could reach my goals. While I was in hospital I had physio and OT sessions every day - and everyday I improved. My therapists were amazing and really helped motivate me as I could tell how much hope they had for me to recover and how proud they were each time I accomplished something new. 
I no longer go to physio or OT regularly, but I still have exercises that I work on to try and improve the functioning of my right hand and leg - the only two areas I still suffer with noticeable weakness in. My progress has slowed down - but my goals are bigger. 
I have returned to pole dancing which was one of my main motivating factors while I was in hospital. I performed in a showcase a year after my accident and competed in a pole competition a few months later. 
My big goal for the year is to compete at the World Pole Sports Championships. And although I am letting this big goal motivate me - I have broken it up into smaller manageable tasks and milestones and I am celebrating each small achievement like I did when I was in hospital.
At the moment I’m focusing on Nationals and want to get through that first before I get too excited about Worlds. But my training is going well and I’m feeling strong!