A horrifying fall broke this woman’s spine but doctors failed to notice and sent her away without realising until she woke up a week later paralysed from the waist down.
Tattoo artist, Holly Witney, 26, from Dover in the UK, was prescribed Quetiapine in January 2017 to control her mental health. However, in the days after starting it, she started to black out randomly, with no control over when it happened.
The first blackout was in a pub with her friend, but the second time was more troublesome.
Ms Witney had been standing at the top of her stairs in her house when she lost control and fell. When she woke at the bottom of the stairs, her back hurt but she hoped it was just pain from the impact.
“I wasn’t that concerned when I blacked out down the stairs - I knew something was a little off but didn’t think it was anything major," she said.
"I ended up going to hospital for an X-ray and was given a shot of Valium and told I was fine."
Ms Witney continued to go to work but couldn’t shake the pain and by Saturday – six days after falling down the stairs – she woke up unable to move her legs, paralysed from the waist down.
She was taken to hospital in an ambulance where an MRI confirmed she had broken her back.
"I had an emergency MRI and was told I was being prepared for emergency spinal surgery because I’d broken my spine," Ms Witney said.
"I remember lying on the trolley waiting to go into surgery, silently crying.
“I woke up in recovery a few hours later, in insane amounts of pain. Some muscle had been removed, they shaved some spine down and did a microdiscectomy."
The damage from the fall had caused disc protrusions, sequestrated discs and moderate spinal stenosis. An emergency microdiscectomy was necessary to remove the discs which were herniated.
The 26-year-old’s struggles with pain didn’t subside after surgery, and although she regained movement in her legs, she lives in fear. She can no longer go for long walks, do gardening or go ice skating because if she were to fall over, she could become permanently paralysed.
Life completely changed after accident
Since April 2017, Ms Witney has been seeking referrals to help her recover, but she said doctors have dismissed her queries repeatedly.
She continues to feel the effects of the horrific ordeal.
“I have significant scarring from the first surgery, bladder weakness due to weakened nerves, disc protrusions, significant disc disease, both sides of my spine have sequestrated discs, leg nerve pain, restless leg syndrome, no lumbar extension and moderate spinal canal stenosis.
“My injury has stopped me from working and enjoying things I used to do, like ice skating, hiking and going to gigs. It breaks my heart that I’m unable to do these things anymore. I’m terrified of attempting to ice skate again because if I fall then I’d be completely paralysed.”
Ms Witney has been fighting for further treatment and care since the accident, and in February 2019 she found out that the bottom of her spine has fractured in four places and she has four herniated discs.
However, doctors weren’t sure how long her spine had been that way as she was dismissed from doctors on multiple occasions.
Having to push to be listened to has made her want to show others that they shouldn’t let their problems get diminished.
Ms Witney believes that her young age has made some doctors underestimate her injuries, causing them not to hear her out.
“I am not hopeful for a full recovery. Mainly because the nurses left me to heal on my own, there was no physio provided. I have been told my spine will never be right again as it’s so damaged and full of disc disease,” she said.
“I found a new doctor and am having a nerve root block and facet joint injections in coming weeks. They only have a 30 per cent chance of working, but at this point I will take any treatment due to how much pain I’m constantly in.
“I believe that everyone deserves treatment. Younger people should be treated just as fast as those who are older. I’ve been told by countless GPs and specialists that I’m ‘too young’ to be experiencing this.
“Since I am unable to work or sit and draw as I used to, I’ve discovered a love for cross stitching and also doing makeup. They’re my creative outlets while I’m like this.
“I didn’t think that at the age of 26 I would have broken my spine and be contemplating the rest of my life in a wheelchair.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.