Brave Zoe defies the odds to walk again

LESS than three years ago, doctors gave Zoe Talbot only a 50/50 chance of ever walking again.The schoolgirl, then aged 11, had been paralysed after breaking her back, leg and ribs in a freak accident.

By Danielle Nuttall

LESS than three years ago, doctors gave Zoe Talbot only a 50/50 chance of ever walking again.

The schoolgirl, then aged 11, had been paralysed after breaking her back, leg and ribs in a freak accident.

The odds seemed stacked against her but if anyone ever doubted whether the 13-year-old would walk again, it was certainly not Zoe.

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And now, thanks to what her mother fondly calls a “stubborn streak”, the feisty teenager is proving everybody wrong.

A month ago, Zoe took her first steps thanks to special callipers, which support her legs, and a frame that helps maintain her balance.

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The teenager is now walking for a few minutes every day until her muscles get stronger and familiar with the motion, but she has already surpassed all expectations.

Speaking at her home in Cottesford Close, Hadleigh, yesterday, the brave youngster said she did not think for one minute she would not be able to do it.

“I ignored everything doctors told me. I just thought to myself: “I'm going to do what I'm going to do and that's that,” she said.

“My first words after the accident were actually would I be able to ride again, not walk. Horses are basically my life. If I wasn't able to ride again I don't know what I would have done.

“When I first got up it was weird. Now it's like it used to be and I feel normal again.

“I'm just going with it now and seeing where it goes. Hopefully I'll be walking better in two years time and less like a penguin.”

The teenager was paralysed from the waist down when a concrete canopy fell on her as she sat on the front porch of a friend's house in September 2004.

She was hospitalised for several weeks and underwent numerous operations.

Even after she was discharged from hospital, the youngster had to cope with a gruelling physiotherapy regime to give her the best possible chance of walking again.

Her rapid progress since then has astounded everyone around her but most of all her proud parents, Mandy and Bob.

Mrs Talbot said yesterday: “It's amazing. She has achieved far more than we thought possible.

“She couldn't wiggle her toes when it first happened.

“Normally they say if you start wiggling your toes in three months the odds are greater. Initially in hospital they said she would be in a wheelchair and that was it.

“But she's always said it's not if I walk it's when.

“I'm very proud. She's very, very stubborn but that's helped her.

“If you tell Zoe she can't do anything she wants to prove you wrong.”

When Zoe was initially given her callipers, it was on the understanding she would use them in conjunction with the parallel bars during physio sessions at hospital.

But within minutes of trying them out, the teenager had ditched the bars in favour of a frame that allowed her to walk exactly where she wanted to go.

“The first time on them she walked two metres and then sat down in a chair looking at us and said: “What's the matter?” said Mrs Talbot, 37. “We were all blubbering.”

Zoe added: “It hadn't registered to me what I had done.

“That night I walked through the living room, the kitchen, the computer room and the conservatory and back again.

“My next goal was to walk outside. Another goal was to walk down the end of the path.

“I'm working on my balance at the moment, it's quite scary. I panic if I start to go but if I don't think about it I can do it.”

Zoe, who has two brothers, Connor, eight, and Ryan, 15, has to learn to walk again using the muscles that are working as opposed to the same muscles everybody uses.

Eventually, it is hoped she will be able to wear the callipers all day but for the moment, the teenager is gradually building it up.

“She has built it up from 15minutes a day to two-and-a-half hours,” said Mrs Talbot.

“Hopefully she'll be having them on all day at school eventually.”

But for Zoe, a far more important milestone in her recovery than walking is that she is riding again.

The youngster attends the Shelly Centre for Therapeutic Riding, near Ipswich, and is now riding side saddle. She also regularly grooms two Shetland ponies.

“As soon as I got home I wanted to look after horses again. That's been my goal actually because I've been riding since I was three,” she said.

The family said it had been touched by all the support Zoe had received from friends, family and even EADT readers who do not know them.

Mrs Talbot said an EADT reader had continued to send cards congratulating Zoe throughout her ordeal, which had given her the boost she often needed to progress.

Zoe and her family want to thank the reader for their ongoing support.

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