Four years ago Shelley Faulkner was driving to her job as an equality and human rights advisor when her car hit a patch of ice and sent her life in a new direction.
Shelley suffered a serious spinal injury and there were fears that she could have been left paralysed. Thanks to her determination and the care provided by health professionals, Shelley has recovered but was also inspired to retrain as an Occupational Therapist.
Now Shelley has now joined the team of Allied Health Professionals at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and is helping patients to regain their confidence after operations.
Occupational Therapists play a key role in helping patients with a range of conditions to improve their mobility and independence by changing their environment, using new techniques or equipment.
She said: “During my recovery, the Occupational Therapists were really positive with me and gave me hope that my left arm would work again.
“I was given the responsibility as a patient to move forward and that felt really reassuring and made me start to think that I would like to give something back.
“Occupational Therapy looks at every aspect of a patient’s life. I was keen to get back to the level of normality that I was used to. I was given hope.
“All the health professionals are in it for the patients. You join the NHS as you care about people and want the best for them. The thought that I could help a person to appreciate every aspect of their life and become a kind of motivation drew me to this profession.”
Shelley’s life was changed on November 15, 2013, when she was driving to work from Alcester to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, and her car skidded on the ice.
After it flipped over and landed in a field, firefighters cut Shelley free from the remains of her car and she was taken to A&E at nearby Redditch.
Shelley had broken her top two vertebrate along with the ulna and radius in her left arm and a dislocation of her left arm. Due to the seriousness of the condition, Shelley was transferred to the Critical Care unit at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
During her time in hospital, Shelley had a number of operations. Initially a metal halo was attached to Shelley’s head and traction was applied, however this did not work in supporting the neck to heal itself. So Shelley then had four screws and two rods inserted into her neck along with a metal plate in her arm.
Shelley then had to wear a neck brace for six months after the accident and she was also referred to an outpatient Occupational Therapist for her arm.
She said: “The Occupational Therapist was really keen to get my left arm working again. She reminded me that I was still quite young and how much time and determination I had.
“She also reminded me I was able to do and also gave me back some of the control. With the support of the Occupational Therapist, it made me feel that I could achieve anything.”
With support Shelley worked hard to improve the mobility in her arm using different equipment.
She said: “I tried to challenge my left hand as much as possible, if I was making a drink I would use my left hand to hold the mug or coffee jar.
“It was around the time that Loom Bands were in fashion and I would use them as an exercise to move my fingers. I used a lot of arts and crafts.”
Around 20 months after her accident, Shelley had the metal plate removed from her arm, and the rods removed from her vertebrate, four metal screws are still in situe.
Shelley was inspired to start an Occupational Therapy course at the University of the West of England.
She then joined the Trust in July and is on a band 5 rotation covering different wards and the community.
Shelley said: “I enjoy talking to the patients, their families and relatives. I am also enjoying being part of the team as a newly qualified Occupational Therapist. It is also a really proud moment to see my name and profession on my tunic.”
Shelley was among the scores of Occupational Therapists who are helping to make a difference to patients alongside other Allied Health Professionals, such as diagnostic radiographers, physiotherapists and dietitians.
Medical Director Nick Lyon said: “We are pleased to welcome an inspirational and determined professional such as Shelley to be part of Team QEH.
“We are lucky to have a dedicated team of Allied Health Professionals working at the Trust, who play an important role in helping patients to gain confidence and mobility.“