Girl, 11, suffers broken back

A SCHOOLGIRL whose back was badly broken in a freak accident at a friend's home is looking forward to going home for Christmas.Zoe Talbot, 11, was sitting on a front doorstep when an iron porch canopy fell on top of her, inflicting severe injuries on her spine.

A SCHOOLGIRL whose back was badly broken in a freak accident at a friend's home is looking forward to going home for Christmas.

Zoe Talbot, 11, was sitting on a front doorstep when an iron porch canopy fell on top of her, inflicting severe injuries on her spine.

The youngster, from Hadleigh, has no movement from the waist down and doctors have told her she only has a "50/50" chance of ever walking again.

But Zoe's spirits have been lifted with the news she is to be allowed to spend three weeks at home over Christmas, with her parents Bob and Mandy and brothers Ryan, 13, and Connor, six. She has been in hospital for 12 weeks after the horrific accident in September.

"She was doing nothing wrong, just sitting talking to her friends. She heard a crack above her and got up to run away, but the porch canopy fell on her," said Mr Talbot, 38, a building site manager.

"Her back was badly broken and she broke her leg and some ribs. The canopy had been up there for about 40 years and it just fell off."

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Zoe's friends managed to move the canopy away from her after the accident, just across the road from her parents' home in Cottesford Close, and her parents called 999.

She was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxfordshire, by an RAF helicopter from Wattisham Airfield and had three pins put in her back.

"Her spinal column was not completely severed and we don't know what the lasting damage is going to be at the moment," said Mr Talbot.

"She can't move her legs and has a 50/50 chance of walking again. She's been working hard and doing physiotherapy every day and after Christmas they hope to get her standing with a frame.

"She's lucky to be alive really - she could have been killed if it hit her on the head. It took four people to carry the canopy round to the back of the house. It was very heavy."

Zoe, a pupil at Hadleigh Primary School, was moved to Ipswich Hospital, where she spent five weeks, and is currently at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex.

"She's a bit depressed at the moment because she's been in hospital for 12 weeks and just wants to go home," said her father.

"She said she was doing nothing wrong or dangerous and can't really understand why it happened to her.

"Zoe's been very brave considering she's only 11 and what happened to her. She has overcome lots of hurdles and various operations and is coping very well."

Zoe's mother Mandy, a 35-year-old playgroup leader, has stayed with her ever since the accident and Mr Talbot said having Zoe home would be an ideal Christmas present.

"It has been a big strain on the family and we're just pleased that she is going to be able to come home. She will have to go back in to hospital after Christmas but we're hoping she will be allowed home for good in February."

He said his daughter was a keen horse rider who went riding every weekend. "She loves horses and is determined to go horse riding again. Hopefully she will be able to do that, whether she is disabled or not," added Mr Talbot.

He said friends at her school had been "brilliant", sending her cards, pictures, photos and even making a video for her.

"She's got more rehabilitation after Christmas and there's a lot of hard work to do, but for now we're just looking forward to having the family back together," said Mr Talbot.

n Laurie Squirrell, the top moto-cross rider who broke her back when she fell off her bike, will not be able to undergo stem-cell treatment, her family has said.

The 16-year-old, from Hitcham, was practising for her first professional race in San Antonio, Texas, when the accident happened, which has left her paralysed from the chest down.

She broke three vertebrae in her back and shattered another and doctors have said she has only a "one in a million" chance of walking again.

Her family had hoped she may be able to undergo pioneering stem-cell treatment to treat her condition, but they have now been told her back is too badly broken for that to happen.

Meanwhile, they have started a fund to raise money to support Laurie. They are asking anyone wishing to make a donation to send it to the family's transport firm, Squirrells Coaches, which is still being run while Richard and Julie Squirrell are with their daughter in America.

Donations should be sent to Laurie Squirrell c/o Squirrells Coaches, The Old Mill Garage, The Causeway, Hitcham, Suffolk IP7 7NF.

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