Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: ‘I can’t believe how far I have come’

  • I don’t think I could have ever dreamt in my wildest dreams that a year on since having my Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted at the John Radcliffe and going through a gruelling opiate detox programme (not many people can say they’ve had to do that!) that I would be upright and out of my wheelchair, on crutches, driving, riding, leaving home (again) and going back to work.

    Wherever I go I generally create some form of carnage or entertainment on an outing, it is normally stemming from my spasms or more recently the B&W Equine work’s Christmas party attempting to dance on my crutches (attempting being the operative word!).

    My timing was, it’s got to be said, not great! And I definitely felt like I had been through a workout in the morning. No need for physio…


    What has really helped me through the last two and a half years, eight operations, endless months in hospital and boredom, has to be the truly amazing people I am so lucky to have in my life. Family, friends, physios, doctors, nurses, and the incredible people I have met along the way.

    They have kept me as sane as I’ll ever be and kept me smiling throughout, even when some of the entertaining moments are actually quite painful. I can think of numerous occasions when we all laugh when my leg is karate kicking, or even when I was lying in the hospital bed at the very beginning and the vicious cycle of laughing made the pain worse — I couldn’t decide whether the fact that my friends were laughing at me (Jackie and Sophie) made them good friends or bad friends!

    Just like everyone else, they never treated me any differently to the person I always have been. This is just how I wanted it to be.

    Competition time

    amo talland

    Did someone mention the C word? Competition time!

    The key to me being driven mentally was the goals I always had in my head, right from the start. Obviously included in the list was getting back on a horse.

    Gemma, (Neuro physio for Peninsular community health) played a massive part in helping me achieve this, as my physio started to include bringing my saddle into my sessions and creating ingenious exercises involving being sat on the saddle.

    Also, on the list was competing. Getting back on board was a complete dream come true, but as soon as I had mastered that I knew that competing would be possible.

    The plan is to enter some able bodied tests on Amo (pictured above) in January, in preparation for the para competitions that start in February. I can’t even imagine how excited I am going to be for my first competition again after such a long time. I will be worse than a little kid!

    I can’t thank Pammy enough for her support and for letting me compete Amo.

    My training has been going really well, and I feel I am making progress all the time. I have however found that the recent cold weather has affected my nerve pain and spasms, so I am trying to stay as warm enough. Any clever clothing suggestions that would help?

    I think I should either go into hibernation, or move to Australia for the winter months!

    Rehab continues

    A year ago in hospital

    A year ago in hospital

    I have found that recently parts of my progress have plateaued out slightly, this is somewhat frustrating, however I can’t expect my progress to keep going up and up continually.

    I also think the fact that I am struggling with the cold weather probably doesn’t help to move everything forward.

    Overall my body strength is continuing to improve with the combination of going to Oaksey House, working in the gym with Sam Iles (Cadbury House Gym), swimming and riding.

    Sam has been working on some more core based exercises with me (which should definitely help my riding), and we have also been building up the amount of time I am on the treadmill for in total. Sam has now got the hang of my crazy left leg and certainly isn’t as concerned when it starts stamping the treadmill!

    I have also started going into the gym on my own recently, when I put my crutches down to get on the bike I always end up with them clattering to the ground, making a horrendous racket, which either sparks a conversation with the person cycling next to me or makes them want to leave pretty swiftly!

    In my last couple of sessions at Oaksey with Nadia we have been working on trying to get my left foot flat to the floor. The spasm curve my foot over to the outside, it took Nadia having a rugby match with it and me getting quite angry before I think we won! This will progress over time and practice. Poor Nadia!

    Home Sweet Home

    Even my parents couldn’t beat the greeting that Tapi, my little terrier (pictured top), gave me as I came through the door! She couldn’t believe her eyes and wouldn’t let me out of her sight, every time I went out of the door without her she was worried that I wouldn’t be coming back again. It was six weeks since I had left home to start back at the vets.

    I had a fantastic time catching up with various people over my two weekends at home, and I even had an emotional (in a good way) hospital appointment with my Orthoptist at Treliske.

    I have got ongoing problems with my vision since my accident, from having a big bang to the head.

    It is by no means as bad as it was, but the double vision (diplopia) is still a problem, so I have check-ups every few months.

    My Orthoptist was involved with me very near the beginning of my recovery, as such we were looking back at how far I have come and how very weak, poorly and unhappy I was when she saw me back then!

    When I was at Treliske, I also managed to catch up with Sue and Tracy (hydro team), we had so much to catch up on. Sue took a video of me walking with my crutches and sent it to Becky, who was my original hydro-therapist before she left.

    Needless to say I think Becky was pretty chuffed!

    I had very special catch up with Suzy Hamilton (original physio) before I drove back up to Bristol. I hadn’t seen Suzy since I had been to Oaksey House, as you can imagine there was a huge improvement to be seen and also a lot of catching up to do!

    I had a great time catching up with my parents and my brother, Jamie, (pictured below) and his fiancé, Sophie. I am very much looking forward to being an Aunty in the near future.


    Christmas spirit

    I’m really looking forward to my first Christmas for a couple of years actually feeling well and out of hospital — touch wood!

    I love Christmas time as everyone gets involved, and yes, I am a big kid! I will probably be even more excited this year as I will have a competition looming on the horizon. That’s Christmas wrapped up for me!

    I can’t believe how far I have come in a year.

    It just shows ‘If you have a dream, follow it, as what’s meant to be will always find a way’…

    Happy Christmas everyone!


    Timeline of Suz’s incredible progression:


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