Paralysed rider feels

A TEENAGE moto-cross rider left paralysed after a horrific accident in America has recovered some feeling along her back and tingling in her legs and feet.

A TEENAGE moto-cross rider left paralysed after a horrific accident in America has recovered some feeling along her back and tingling in her legs and feet.

Laurie Squirrell, 16, was paralysed from the chest down after breaking her back in an accident while training for her first professional race in America.

Within weeks of the crash, which saw her thrown about 15ft into the air from the track in San Antonio, Texas, Laurie had regained a little feeling back around her stomach and the paralysis ran about two inches lower than before.

But in the last few days she has also gained about another three inches of feeling along her back, as well as sometimes experiencing a tingling sensation in her legs and feet.

The star moto-cross rider, the first woman to gain expert status in the UK, is due to start rehabilitation today and she is hoping to build on the good progress she has already made.

Laurie, from Hitcham, has been transferring herself from her bed to her wheelchair in Stoke Mandeville spinal injury centre, in Aylesbury, and has even hit the shops for some sale shopping.

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She said: "I'm loads better now. The other night I got more feeling back and I've had tingles in my legs.

"I'm looking forward to starting physio. I can transfer myself from my bed to the chair and yesterday I managed to put one of my shoes on and I managed to get dressed last night. Once I start the physio it should bring some normality back.

"The first day I went out I went shopping and on New Year's Eve I went out for a meal. It was nice to get out of the hospital.

"It's been alright actually in the wheelchair. I started going dizzy at first and I found it quite tiring to push myself so I had to get someone else to do it.

"On New Year's Eve, in the restaurant we went to, I couldn't fit under the table so they stuck beermats under it so I could fit. Some shops were a bit tight but it's not been too bad and I've found a way round it."

Laurie broke three vertebrae, smashing another, as well as fracturing a rib and badly bruising her left lung in the accident in November last year.

She underwent an operation in the University Hospital, in San Antonio, to put plates along her spinal column and pin five of her vertebrae together, before flying back to the UK last month.

Since then the paralysis has moved down to her lower back and about halfway down her front.

Laurie, who has now been transferred to St David's rehabilitation ward, said: "The doctor said where I injured my spinal cord you get a leakage of the fluids around it.

"That slowly goes and that's when you start to get feeling back. You could get all the feeling back or a little bit - it depends on what happens.

"When the person is younger the process takes longer because your body is still growing and is delicate so it takes longer to heal."

Her mum, Julie, 37, who runs transport firm Squirrells Coaches with her husband, said: "She had a bad night the other night.

"At 1.30am she was crying that she was in pain so I was rubbing her back and she kept saying 'I can feel that'.

"I was saying 'you can't, you can't', and she said 'I can'. We're a bit excited but we have to take it one step at a time."

She added: "She's had no physio yet but considering everything she's doing, she's doing really well.

"We don't really know too much of what's happening yet with the rehab, when and to what extent.

"Christmas was a really nice day and our friends brought a banquet up. I didn't have to lift a finger as everything was done.

"Then we all spent New Year's Eve together, which was really nice for her.

"It was New Year's Eve last year that Laurie broke her leg while skiing in France. This year, although the injury is more severe, it feels a bit better.

"Last year we were in France saying 'I can't believe it'. Even though she's paralysed now something good's come out of it for some reason."

Meanwhile Laurie's arch rival on the race tracks, Chad Yarranton, has decided to commission a run of stickers, which riders can put on their bikes or helmet to show their support for Laurie and raise much-needed funds.

Mr Yarranton has produced a number 13 decal, Laurie's race number, which will also be made available to the public.

The stickers will cost £1 with all the money going into Laurie's trust fund.

Laurie said: "My first ever race meeting was on my birthday on the thirteenth and I thought my number might as well be 13. It's just stuck ever since and become my lucky number."

Anyone wanting to buy a sticker should send £1 to Mr Yarranton at 51 Linden Avenue, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs, DY13 0EE.

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