I am very honoured to have been asked by the Spinal Injuries Association to become its first Ambassador, as their work bears great significance for me. In 1989 my mother fell from her horse, leaving her tetraplegic. The prognosis was that she was unlikely to survive for more than 72 hours, but as a result of sheer determination on her part and thanks to the exceptional devotion and innovative medical skill of the renowned Dr Frankel, my mother won the battle to live and lived for twelve years until 2001.
My mother was an independent woman who prior to her accident had lived an exceptionally active life, riding, training and breeding horses and she refused to see breaking her neck as the end. Life in a wheelchair posed a great challenge but she responded to the challenge; she saw no point in complaining and made the best of a terrible and totally unforeseen situation. She continued to breed, show and train her horses, managed her stable staff and got out and about. She adapted to the demands of twenty four hour care, went on holiday, took a writing course and produced a series of short stories and took an active interest in my life in London; she never missed the opening night of any of my exhibitions.
Whilst caring for my mother, it quickly became apparent that there was a devastating lack of specialist care, awareness and funding for those with spinal cord injuries in this country and accessing the right treatment at the right time and trying to find support was a constant battle. That was twenty years ago, but sadly it seems that not much has changed. Little progress has been made in terms of providing specialist care and support and there is still very little awareness about spinal cord injuries. As a result of my own experiences with my mother, I have a keen interest in raising awareness about spinal cord injuries, in the hope that it will attract more funding for the research that so desperately needs to be undertaken and so that more and better care facilities and support will be made available so that no one need endure the hardships that my mother and those around her had to endure.
I have observed the work of SIA for many years and am very pleased that they have made so much headway in getting their voice heard; thanks to their efforts, there now exists a Parliamentary all party committee on spinal cord injuries. Nevertheless there is still much to be done and a long way to go before it can be said that all that can be done is being done to help those with spinal cord injuries in terms of giving them the care they need when they need it, getting them back on track and enabling them to learn to adapt so that they are able to get on with living their lives to the fullest possible extent.