Deven’s story


The story of how nsif was founded had particular resonance for Deven Mcalister. Deven had an encounter with spinal injury on her gap year that – extremely fortunately – was not permanent. However her outlook on life and spinal injury changed forever. Here is Deven’s story in her own words, in a letter she sent in to us at nsif…

In January of this year, on the 10th day of my gap year travels on a volunteering trip in South Africa, I was taking part in some adventure activities with a group of people I had met travelling. After the first activity, some of us decided to jump off a ledge at the top of a waterfall. I landed badly and received a compressed fracture, dislocating the T12-L1 part of my spine. I was carried back to the top of the cliff by my new friends and taken via ambulance to the local hospital. At this point no one had any idea as to the scale of my injuries. 

I spent one night in the local hospital where they said it was just muscle damage. Their diagnostic imaging was very old and basic. They encouraged me to stand and walk, although it was clear that – even though I was heavily dosed on analgesics – I was in excruciating pain. I was transferred to a private hospital the next day, when the insurance money had cleared, where they re-scanned me and identified the fracture and dislocation. After a week of deteriorating, I had my operation. I was lucky enough to have a top specialist surgeon who carried out the spinal fusion. At the time, and still to this day, this was very hard to deal with. I was in a foreign country without my family. It was hard not just for me but for them too. After a week of hard work, intensive care and physiotherapy, I was discharged and was beginning to learn to walk short distances again with the help of a brace.

I had missed two and a half weeks of my volunteering program already, which I was desperate to complete to the best of my ability. It took a lot of time and effort, doing daily exercises that before the accident were so simple, and after were so exhausting. I had to miss many activities as I was either not strong enough or they would cause too much pain. However, I completed my 10-week placement and by the end was taking part in almost all activities.

Since returning home I have had to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life, taking into consideration how this has affected me physically. I am currently spending a lot of time focusing on regaining as much fitness, strength and flexibility as possible so that I can go back to enjoying being active and getting back to playing hockey.

As part of this, to mark one year of rehabilitation, I have decided to do the London-to-Paris cycle ride in April 2015 with my cousin, Becky Anderson. I want to do this not only as a personal goal but to raise money and awareness for nsif.

When I first discovered your charity, it all seemed so very close to home. The reason I have chosen to support this charity is the research that you do within spinal injuries, without which my recovery would have been extremely difficult, as research is key for the development of diagnostic tools, surgical procedures and rehabilitation techniques. Charities supporting the families of the injured are also very important to me, as I know from my own family’s experience that it is a very difficult and stressful time of uncertainty. Without the knowledge gained and shared through research I would not have recovered as well as I have, and back in January I would have thought it impossible that I would achieve the London-to-Paris cycle ride.

In doing the London-to-Paris cycle ride I want to give back and help others and their families in any similar situation they may be unlucky enough to find themselves in. We want to make this big, raise as much money as we possibly can for your charity. Your charity is inspiring, and on behalf of my family, and myself, we thank you.

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