A woman who faced the prospect of paralysis after a horse riding accident last year is to walk the island’s 95-mile coastal path.
Elizabeth Sanderson, who is 23, was taking part in a riding event in England in 2013 when she fell and injured her spine.
To celebrate her recovery, Elizabeth will be completing the distance with her boyfriend Ben Wignall, also 23, whose grandmother Sarah Goulden lives in Andreas and will be supporting them through the week.
Also taking part will be Ben’s cousin Sam Bryan, 24, and between them they hope to raise as much money as possible for the International Spinal Research charity.
‘Basically she smashed her back and was told she may not walk again,’ said Ben, who works as a chef and catering manager and now lives in Newbury in Berkshire.
‘She was flat on her back for 50 days in total. She is still going to physio and hydro-therapy and having acupuncture so she still has some movement issues but the great thing is she is confident now of being able to do the walk.’
In fact, Ben said the events surrounding Elizabeth’s accident had been an object lesson in how not to respond to a spinal injury.
‘It was a horrible experience for her and huge negligence on the part of the organisers because it was a big event with 18 horses and riders but there was not one first aider. When she fell one of the event marshals told her to just get up and walk off the pain. Fortunately she refused to move and was carried away on a spinal board. The marshals did not even stop the event, simply directing the other riders around her!’ he said.
‘Fortunately the following riders were sensible enough to refuse to do that.’
Matters didn’t improve when it proved too foggy for the air ambulance to land and a six-wheel off-road vehicle had to be used to cross the fields to rescue her and take her to Basingstoke and Hampshire hospital where she spent almost two months.
However, her luck improved when she received pioneering treatment in hospital: ‘The usual procedure is to operate and pin the vertebrae so it fuses the spine and you lose some flexibility. But instead they decided not to do any invasive surgery and keep her immobile so it had time to heal,’ he said.
The three arrive in the island on Saturday and will take a week to complete the walk setting off from the Point of Ayre the same day for the ‘long slog’ down to Maughold Head.
‘I think the section from Port Erin to Peel may be the hardest slog of all, though,’ he added.
Anyone who would like to support spinal research by making a donation can log on to www.WOTG98 to give as little as £1 or more.