Just over two years ago, in October 2018, Laura Bocking was driving along the A11 towards her home in Aylsham, when her life changed forever.
21 years old at the time, Laura was travelling home from working at Centre Parcs in Elveden as a commis chef, which she loved doing. It was around 8pm and Laura was close to Hethersett when a car over took her – clipping the rear of her car as it did so, causing a life-threatening crash.
Laura said: “I was taken off the road through no fault of my own. The car hit me, then the central reservation and came back at me again, taking me off the road and down the embankment, hitting a tree. My car landed sideways, with the driver’s door on the ground and my neck at an awkward angle. I was trapped, I couldn’t feel my legs and kept crying ‘I don’t want to die’. After what seemed like a long time, I remember someone touching my arm. Unfortunately, during the impact of the accident, my cochlear implant was lost, so I also couldn’t hear anything, and was trapped completely deaf and in the dark. Then someone touched my arm and I knew help had arrived.”
The 999 call came in at 20:25 that evening. The first ambulance was on scene at 20:41 and the East Anglian Air Ambulance team from Cambridge (which currently flies later than the Norwich aircraft) was tasked at 20:49, and on scene half an hour later. Laura had to be cut out the car by the fire service and was initially treated by the ambulance team, before the air ambulance crew of Doctor Scott Knapp and Critical Care Paramedic Liam Sagi arrived, flown by pilots David Kelly and Jennifer Stevenson.
The EAAA team gave Laura a thorough assessment and stabilised her before accompanying her to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, by road, for further treatment. However, the helicopter was on standby to airlift Laura to the major trauma centre at Addenbrooke’s, if required. Laura sustained a life changing spinal cord injury resulting in her being paralysed from the chest down.
Laura continued: “My life has completely changed. I am in constant pain and the accident has taken away my dignity, but I am so grateful I am still here and thankful to my mum, fiancé, sister, carers and all my friends for their support over the last two years.
“To anyone out there who is paralyzed like me, my message to you would be to stay strong, to be the best you can be and if there is something you are passionate about, you will find a way to achieve it. Do not give up and be thankful you are still here. ”
Above: Laura celebrating her strengths two years on from the car accident
The road to recovery for Laura has been long and full of setbacks, however she remains incredibly driven and positive. Laura was in intensive care for about a month after having an emergency operation on the night of the accident on her fractured neck, and to help with the breathing problems she was experiencing. Then she was transferred to the high dependency unit until a bed became available at the spinal unit in Sheffield Hospital.
Laura added: “I was really poorly for quite a while, but my family were with me every day to help and to communicate for me, as I am registered as deaf. I was then transferred to the Sheffield Spinal Unit for specialist care in December which should have just been for a few months, but I didn’t leave there till July. I had a grade four pressure sore which meant I was bedridden for eight weeks. Which delayed the treatment. It was incredibly hard on me, and my family and friends, being so far away for seven months.
“When I finally left the hospital, I sadly could not return to my family home, as that was now unsuitable for me as I am now in a wheelchair, so I moved into temporary accommodation. This was hard, but at least I was out of hospital. Over the next few months, I followed a rehabilitation programme to help build my muscle tone back up, as I had lost two and a half stone in weight. I also started hydrotherapy, which has helped with the muscle spasms I get daily. I was getting on really well with all of this, however with the outbreak of Covid-19 I was classed as high-risk and had to isolate for most of this year, which has been another set back.
“My biggest achievement so far has been having a go at an exoskeleton session. The frame helps me to walk biconically and is just amazing. It’s something I can’t wait to try and do more of.”
Sue Gee, of EAAA’s Aftercare Team, who has supported Laura and her family since the time of the accident, said: “Laura is a true inspiration to anyone with a ‘life changing injury’. She has focused on her recovery with such a positive attitude and has adapted her life around this. I’m so proud to see how far Laura has come and wish her all the best for the future. I know she will continue to be amazing.”