One morning, budding gymnast Becky Simpson woke up to severe pain and pins and needles. As the day progressed the 11-year-old lost feeling from the chest down as doctors revealed she had suffered a spinal bleed. Now, 11 months on Becky is still dealing with life in a wheelchair and has been an inspiration to her family. Her mum, Elizabeth, speaks to NATALIE WALKER about Becky’s incredible journey.
July 19 2016 will be a day the Simpson family will never forget as it was the one that brought life-changing consequences for 11-year-old Becky.
Her mum, Elizabeth, of Leyland, says: “That day will be etched in my brain.
“The night before Becky was running around the field with our dog and doing cartwheels.
“But the following morning Becky was in pain telling me she couldn’t feel her legs and she had pins and needles.
“I had meningitis as a child which caused paralysis, so I thought it was that.
“I called the emergency services and we took her to Royal Preston Hospital. By this time she couldn’t feel any of her body.
“When she had an MRI scan, everything turned horrible as we were told the truth.
“There was a big mass in her back, causing a haemorrhage. She had suffered a spinal stroke. The bleed was so high up she was paralysed from the chest down and everything started to shut down.
“Her condition was critical and life threatening.
“Her heart started to stop and her breathing was shallow. She was taken to Manchester Children’s Hospital via ambulance where she had emergency surgery which saved her life.
“She was in intensive care for four days, followed by the high dependency unit for a week.
“She stayed on the surgical ward for two to three months and then she was in another ward with neurological and long term ventilation for three months.
“I could not cope with it. It was horrendous.
“We were not grieving for a child but for the child that Becky once was.
“As a parent you want to protect your child and I couldn’t.
“I had to rely on the hospital staff to keep our little girl alive and they were amazing.”
Becky spent six months in hospital and was released two days before Christmas.
But the budding gymnastics star was delivered the bitter blow that she may never walk again.
She attends physiotherapy sessions at Southport Spinal Unit twice a week and her family home is gradually being adapted to suit her needs.
Elizabeth adds: “We are all moving on. Time is a great healer.
“When something traumatic happens, it doesn’t hurt any less, but you learn to deal with it.
“It still burns when we talk about it, but you learn to deal with those emotions.
“One paediatrician thinks Becky might see some movement in her legs but doctors at Southport Spinal Unit think this is very unlikely.
“We live in hope but we are prepared if she doesn’t.
“Becky had been a member of Flic Flac gymnastics club in Charnock Richard since she was five and had won lots of medals and had entered many competitions.
“But knowing she may never be able to compete again has been the hardest thing for me to deal with.
“However, Becky has taken it well and even watches as her younger sister, Megan, nine, does gymnastics.
“We have seen big improvements from what Becky is able to do now to how she was at the beginning.
“At the start she could not move her hands, neck or legs. But now she can sit up and shuffle forward.
“Becky is doing really well considering what she has been through. She’s amazing. She has dealt with it so well.
“She says it is not the end of the world if she can’t use her legs as she can still use her hands and she can sit up.
“She is such an inspiration and helps to make us all positive.
“She is doing well at school. She has been going to Penwortham Girls’ High School on a gradual basis. She is very sociable and such a bright girl.
“I have been surprised at how well she has been picking up the work.”
As Becky gets used to her new lifestyle, her family is raising funds for specialist equipment.
Elizabeth, 45, explains: “The reality of it all is very expensive.
“We need to adapt the house and have new equipment for Becky.
“There were so many things you don’t have a clue about until you are in this situation.
“And as soon as you put the word disability to anything, the price hikes up. Her wheelchair was £7,000 - we didn’t realise how much it would all cost.
“But it is worth it as Becky is excited about her new wheelchair.
“As long as she can be independent and move around on her own, she is happy.
“She is looking forward to our garage being converted for her and the creation of a wet room downstairs.
“At the moment we have a walk-in shower with a garden chair which she sits on.
“We have to carry her up the stairs for this, but we are waiting for a stair-lift.”
Family and friends have rallied round, fund-raising for Becky’s equipment.
Governing body Gymnastics UK has donated funds, while her neighbour organised a comedy night and fun day in January.
Members of Flic Flac also took part in the Guild Wheel in aid of Ronald McDonald House.
Rock FM honoured Becky with a Shine award in recognition of her inspirational courage and Preston-born paralympian swimmer Stephanie Slater has been in contact with her.
Elizabeth adds: “Rock FM did a special Shine award for her which is a bit like their Child of Courage awards because they were so inspired by her.
“Becky met Steph Slater and she now follows her progress which is a real boost for her.”
Becky’s dad, David, 47, and uncle David Todd recently took part in the Chester Half Marathon.
They were joined by Colette and Sean Whiteside, Jack Jones and Miriam McCarney who all attend Wrea Green Cricket Club with Becky’s dad.
David Todd is also organising a team to do a sponsored Manchester to Blackpool bike ride later in the year.
Family friend David Pearson will be doing the Iron Man challenge on July 17. To sponsor him visit http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dave-pearson-1
Elizabeth says: “It is so sweet and very personal that people are doing these things to help Becky. It is very humbling.
“Money from these events will go towards making the garden accessible for Becky so it is a calm and welcoming space for her, as well as family and friends.”