In October 2020, I was doing a spot of DIY at home in Scarborough. My divorce had come through a week before, but my ex-husband was still living in our three-storey townhouse, which we also shared with our seven-year-old daughter. He was due to move out in four days’ time. I was finding it difficult emotionally, and busied myself with some decorating.
I was on the top floor, in the hallway, steaming the walls to try to scrape off the wallpaper. The heat from the steamer set off the fire alarm. I climbed up on the fifth rung of the ladder to put masking tape over it – I had done that before successfully, but this time I slipped and fell backwards about a metre and a half on to the floor.
I landed on a box my ex-husband had packed to take with him. He’d dismantled a shoe rack, and metal poles for it were in the box. I felt a sharp stab and extreme pain around the left-hand side of my back, so shouted for help. I knew I had been impaled, but did not dare to look at how bad it was. When my ex-husband rushed up the stairs and saw me, I could tell by his expression that it wasn’t good.
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He called 999 while I sat there, not daring to move or look down. I have a strong Christian faith and while I waited for the paramedics, I whispered, “Please, God, don’t let me die” over and over. In my panic, it felt as if it took for ever for them to arrive, although I imagine it wasn’t long at all.
I still refused to look at the injury, but when the paramedics started talking about airlifting me to hospital, I realised it must be serious. In the end, they decided against it and asked if I’d be OK to walk outside to the ambulance, as they couldn’t carry me on a stretcher because of the narrow hallways in the house.
They put a coat over me, which I was grateful for as it meant my daughter didn’t see the rod protruding from my back. She was worried and knew that something bad had happened, but didn’t know the details. I was taken to my local hospital but I needed specialist surgery so was transferred to another one in Hull. By that time, the rod had been in me for seven hours. All I could think about was how much I needed the toilet. The doctors did not want me to move too much.
They operated on me for a couple of hours under general anaesthetic. Afterwards, the surgeon said how fortunate I’d been: the rod had gone eight inches into my body and missed my heart by two inches. They gave me the X-ray, but I couldn’t face looking at it until a few days afterwards. It was only then, when I finally examined it, that I realised how miraculous it was that the pole had missed all my major organs.
We were in the middle of lockdown, so no one could visit me while I was recovering in the hospital. Amazingly, I was back at home 48 hours later. My daughter had found it difficult, as she knew I had been hurt. I had a fractured rib and lots of tight stitches. It took me seven weeks to recover, and my ribs were still sore three months later. I get a bit of stiffness on my left side from time to time, but apart from that I haven’t had lingering health issues.
While I was in hospital, my ex-husband finished the decorating. When I got home, the box of metal poles was still there. I got rid of it as I didn’t want the reminder. The accident hasn’t put me off DIY, but you won’t find me going up ladders.
I try not to dwell on what could have happened. I shared my story with the local paper and appeared on TV. I’d downplayed the accident to my family as they live down south, so once they saw the extent of what had happened on television, they were shocked and upset.
One of the positives from the accident, though, was seeing my local community and neighbours rally round me. My best friend got everyone at her church and some other friends on a rota so they could bring me tea every night for two weeks. I received lots of flowers and gifts, too. I’ve always been a positive person, but now I’m even more grateful for everything. The experience has given me an edge of confidence and I feel almost invincible.