A nurse who was left paralysed following a freak accident has not been able to return home after spending a year in hospital.
Paula Spragg’s life changed forever when an accidental fall in the early hours of August 22 last year left her unable to walk.
The mum of two worked in the NHS as a nurse for the the last 30 years and had spent the majority of 2020 on Covid-19 wards.
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Now, almost a year on from the accident, Paula’s daughter Gemma Spragg, 25, said they are still yet to get her back to the family home in Taff’s Well, Rhondda Cynon Taf, despite her being ready to be discharged in April. They are desperately trying to raise money in order to adapt their home to her new needs.
Recalling the day it happened, Gemma said she was on her way home from work when her father, Anthony Spragg, telephoned her.
Gemma said: “She fell down the stairs during the early hours of the morning.
“Dad called to say: ‘I don’t want to worry you, but mam is in an ambulance’.”
Paula with her husband Anthony and daughters Gemma and Jodie
(Image: Gemma Spragg)
At this point Gemma said she knew little about the extent of her mother’s injuries, but nothing prepared the family, including her sister Jade, 27, for the news that was about to come.
The mum-of-two suffered a broken C5/C6 in her spine and was left paralysed. Following a 10-and-a-half hour operation, her spinal cord swelled which left her unable to breathe.
“I think it has massively helped her (being a nurse). If she was not a nurse in the NHS it would probably be much harder for her because she would not understand the injury. Knowing what she knows from her job has really helped her,” said Gemma.
“She’s been a nurse for 30 years and has worked at the Heath for around 25 years,” Gemma said.
“She first started at Whitchurch Hospital, and then went over to the Heath.
“She will never walk again – that’s what they say. I have confidence in her so I say never say never.”
Paula has been at Llandough hospital since last October, where she receives daily physio and full time care.
Paula does physio every day at Llandough hospital
(Image: Gemma Spragg)
“She is having physio every day and is constantly on the go it isn’t just a case of getting her out of bed and putting her in a chair.
“She has done a lot of work by herself, she’s very strong minded, she is the strongest woman I know.
“She has been working on getting her palms moving down, she can open her hand and it just stays open. She pushes it with her palm open, she will bite her fingers and push them over to get them to move.”
Thankfully the family are now all able to visit her every weekend, and take it in turns to spend time with Paula through the day.
The family were given the news that Paula was ready to be discharged in April, however the family home isn’t adapted to her needs yet and they have launched a massive fundraising campaign which has seen them raise £15,000, but this isn’t enough. You can donate to the fundraising page here.
Paula and her husband Anthony purchased the house more than 25 years ago and had just finished paying off the mortgage on it before the accident happened.
Gemma described the family home as Paula’s pride and joy, and said the family hope to adapt it as little as possible in the hope that she would one day recover.
Gemma said: “The last thing she wants to do is have people smashing the house to pieces and then recover.”
The sentimental attachment to the family home also means moving isn’t an option for the family.
“They bought the house just after my sister was born, I have never lived anywhere else, this is why she doesn’t want to let go of it.”
One of the ideas the family are considering is building a log cabin style bedroom and wet room in the garden for Paula to use, this would mean that she could access the downstairs freely and minimal work would need to be done to the actual house to adapt it for Paula’s use.
Paula worked as a nurse on Covid-19 wards in 2020
(Image: Gemma Spragg)
“She spent all her life working 60 hours a week to pay off her mortgage and she hasn’t been able to enjoy that.
“We would love to have her home by Christmas, which is a bit of a long shot now.
“It will be hard to adapt to having her home, even though we see her on the weekend, it will be different having her home and being there for her to help her everyday.
“No one can really prepare you for what to expect when she is home, but we just want her home.”
The family did apply for a grant through the council to carry out the work but as it is means tested they didn’t fully qualify, and the proposals put forward by the planners didn’t suit the family.
Gemma has also arranged a fundraising event which is being held at her work place, Revolution, in Cardiff on Sunday, August 15.
The event is £5 entry and will include performances from local DJs and artists as well as a drag queen.
Gemma said her company has been so supportive throughout her mum’s time in hospital and she really hopes the event will push the family towards their final fundraising goal.
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