Laurie fights back

IT is exactly a year ago that Laurie Squirrell was staring at the ceiling of a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, contemplating the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

By Danielle Nuttall

IT is exactly a year ago that Laurie Squirrell was staring at the ceiling of a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, contemplating the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

The 17-year-old had broken her back in an horrific motocross crash and was facing up to the devastating reality that she only had a one in a million chance of ever walking again.

But the former Stowmarket High School pupil allowed herself little time for self-pity and instead she vowed to battle her way back to health.

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The accident which changed her life forever happened exactly a year ago tomorrow but no-one could have predicted the achievements she would have accomplished 12 months on.

Only three months ago, Laurie, who lives in Hitcham, near Stowmarket, passed her driving test at her first attempt and after less than 10 lessons.

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And last month, the teenager competed in her first race since the terrible accident in the USA on a specially adapted quad bike.

The future looks even brighter, with Laurie already preparing to embark on a career promoting and selling motocross clothing.

It is for these reasons Laurie is adamant she will not dwell on the accident and its effect on her life as the first anniversary approaches.

“Obviously I will be thinking about it. It was a big thing to have happened. I will be thinking about it because it was one of the hardest times. But I'm trying to concentrate on the future,” she said at her home yesterday.

“I kind of forget about it. I never stop to look back. It's all about looking forward. I feel much more positive. I'm concentrating on what I want to do next year.”

Laurie, the first female in the country to be awarded expert status in motocross riding, was practising for her first professional race in San Antonio when the accident happened.

The teenager, who raced 125cc bikes, had taken a year out of studying to pursue her motocross career and was preparing to compete in the Women's Motocross Association championships.

During a practice session on the Cycle Ranch MX Laurie's bike hit a wet patch and flipped over, hitting her on the head and then her back.

She broke three vertebrae and shattered another and was airlifted to hospital where doctors later told her she would be paralysed for life.

Laurie now has physiotherapy once a week at home and is achieving more every day.

“We've made one of our rooms into a gym. Basically it has what I need to help with my strength,” she said.

“It has a plinth so I can do my stretches and exercises. It's very important because I wouldn't be able to stretch without that. I also have weights and a standing frame.

“I try to go in there once a day. It's built my strength up. It's to help me keep supple and keep my joints moving.

“I'm learning something new every day. Every day you learn something about yourself.

“I stand up because it helps my body to be as best as it can be. My muscles need to be working properly.

“Walking again is more of a hope. It's not really a goal.”

Laurie has recently returned from a two-week stint selling motocross clothing at the Dirt Bike Show in Coventry and is planning on turning this into a full-time career next year.

But her days on the track are not over.

In October, the teenager lined up against 600 other riders in the Weston-superMare beach race - her first race since the accident.

Laurie admitted she had not felt any fear at all about competing again, and was left exhilarated after the race.

“The thought didn't cross my mind to start off with. It's what I wanted to do. I'll probably do the same meeting again next year,” she said.

The teenager has made no secret of the fact she would like to take part in similar races but is seeing how things go first.

Laurie would like to thank a number of organisations for their financial help and support during the past 12 months.

These include Foxwood Ceramics, Tricker & Broughton, D Leeks Electrical, Hadleigh Building Supplies and Speed Fix.

She would also like to thank her family and friends for their continuing support and any other individual or organisation who has contributed donations.

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