Caroline Hall felt a sharp pain in her neck as she bent down one day at work.
The next day, the 38-year-old RSPCA inspector from Bolton, Lancashire, woke up paralysed, unable to move or feel anything below her head.
“I was absolutely terrified” she said. “I thought I was going to die.
“The day before, I just thought I had pulled a muscle and even told a colleague it was nothing that a glass of wine and a hot bath couldn’t fix.”
Before her hospitalisation - which doctors have since told her was due to a spinal stroke - Hall was fit and healthy.
She had never even had a hospital appointment.
Then, one day in January 2012, she was out on a job at a farm in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.
Bending down to take a rug off a horse in a stable, she felt a pain in the left hand side of her neck.
“I continued working, thinking it was nothing to worry about, but half an hour later I was feeling very unwell, drained and a bit out of it,” she said.
“My colleague told me to go and sit down in the van.
“Suddenly I got the most horrific pain in the world in my neck. I had to put my fist in my mouth to stop me screaming.
“I watched as my left arm slid down my body and the left side of my body drooped.
“I had no movement in that side and I knew I’d had a stroke from watching adverts on TV.
“I was really scared but thought I’d be okay if I just stayed strong until the ambulance arrived.”
Hall’s colleague, who had heard her muffled screams, had phoned an ambulance.
She was taken to the Tameside General Hospital and kept in the resuscitation area as, on the way, she had started having breathing difficulties.
Terrified, she believed she was going to die.
Before long, she became “locked in” for a few hours – meaning she could hear and see everything around her but could not speak or do anything.
She said: “Doctors were telling me to blink and move my toes but I couldn’t.
“My friends were there begging me to stay alive.”
Hall fell into a coma that night and was transferred to the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.
When she woke up the next morning in intensive care, she was totally paralysed from the neck down.
She was on a ventilator as her lungs had shut down.
Two MRI scans confirmed that she had suffered a spinal stroke, a rare condition in which blood flow to the spine is interrupted, potentially leading to paralysis.
The scans also showed she had a birth defect which she had never known about – the blood vessels around her spine had not joined up properly and one of them had burst, causing the spinal damage.
Doctors were not sure what the long term effects would be, or whether the paralysis would be permanent.
Three weeks later, though, Hall managed to move a finger after being “bullied into it” by her friend Vicki McDonald.
She describes the moment as “brilliant”, saying it gave her hope that she may fully regain her movement.
In February 2012, she was moved to the Spinal Injury Centre at the Southport and Ormskirk Hospital, where she underwent physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
She also relearned how to breathe independently, and was taught to use an electric wheelchair.
She said: “I sobbed when I first sat in it. I couldn’t believe that this was where life had taken me.”
Over the next couple of months, movement in Hall’s right side slowly came back.
However, to this day, she still experiences weakness and cannot feel temperature or pain.
Her left side is still paralysed and she is unable to identify where her limbs are - for example if her leg is under or over the bed sheets.
She left hospital in August 2012 and used a manual wheelchair for a couple of years.
Then in August 2014 she was given a scooter by Aspire, a charity which supports people with spinal injuries, which she said has changed her life and made her much more independent.
“I’m so lucky that I’m here and have the best family and friends anyone could ask for,” she said.
“There have been some low and terrible times but I had such good support during those times that I made it through.”
Hall was helped by Aspire thanks to money generated from its annual fundraising event. For information, visit www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk.
Also on HuffPost
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more