Jenna's Story

Jenna Mould, 19.

20th May 2010 my life changed forever.

Since the age of 3, I danced 5 days a week and eventually reached a very high standard. Dance was my future and it was looking bright for me.
When I was 14 I started to get back pains. After a visit to the doctor they prescribed me Ibuprofen. This is where the journey from hell started.
After taking these for a few weeks, I went back to the doctors to complain about the pain. Instead of taking me seriously, because of my age, they tried to diagnose me with an eating disorder, as I had lost so much weight due to lack of appetite from taking ibuprofen. 
For months I wasn't taken seriously, all the while I was still in agony and could no longer sit or stand without extreme pain.
After my 15th birthday, my mum paid £200 for a consultation at a private hospital where they found I had curvature of the spine and suspected slipped discs. This was a relief for me to know what was wrong. I would still have to wait weeks for confirmation from a scan. Once a surgeon had looked at my scan, he said I needed to get the discs fused as soon as possible. I was booked in for a few weeks’ time. In the mean time I was put on morphine and was bed bound.
This couldn't have been at a worse time as I had just started to sit my GCSE's and couldn't attend school because of the amount of medication I was taking and the pain I was in. The school tried to support me as much as possible but they had no experience in something like this before.
The more time I was off, the more alienated I came. My friends became very distant as I was out of sight therefore out of mind. Only my close friends visited me and this made my mood extremely low.

A week before my operation, the pain became so excruciating that I was rushed into hospital by ambulance which for a 15 girl was very scary. I was taken straight in for a scan where the surgeon informed me he needed to operate straight away. My nerve had been damaged by the prolapsed discs pushing against it. I've never felt pain like it so was glad to be having the operation.
Before I had the operation I had to sign a contract and listen to the risks. I was told that during surgery there is a 1% chance that my nerve could get hit, causing temporary numbness in my foot which will go within a few days, but I should be up and out the next day.
The worst possible thing happened. After surgery I woke up and couldn't feel my leg. It's the most horrible feeling trying to move your leg and not being able to, for someone to be touching you slightly and it feeling like they were stabbing me with a thousand needles. The surgeon had indeed hit my nerve during surgery and instead of the risk he outlined, I was paralysed from the waist down in my left side and had hypersensitivity. It wasn't just my leg I couldn't feel, I felt numb all over. I was devastated and everything went quiet.
One of the worst parts, was when my surgeon came round to see me the next day. It was like he wasn't even sorry, he had no sympathy at all. Looking back now I realise how bad he treated me, but at the time I was just a child.

After a week in hospital and forcing myself to move, I was discharged from hospital. The nerve pain had gone and my back was healing. I had months of physiotherapy and due to my determination was starting to walk again and even attend some of my exams at school. However, another setback. A few weeks passed and I started to get nerve pain back. My surgeon informed me at a follow up appointment that I would probably have this nerve damage forever and there is nothing he could do for me. He said operating would make it worse. Yet again, at the time me and my family had no idea what was what and just took what he said.

I returned back to school and most people were supportive. However, I was bullied by some people, they said I was attention seeking as I was on crutches. I only ever went out once in a wheelchair and was starred at so much that I never did it again. Not only had this operation ruined my physical being but it had destroyed me mentally too. For a 15 year old to lose her friends, her confidence and her future, was the hardest thing ever.

I struggled throughout the rest of school and also through college. I can’t really write a lot about this time as a lot of it is just a blur of pain. I've pushed through everything I've done since, in a bid to be 'normal'. College was difficult, from the travelling to the studying and even making new friends as I had to tell them about my condition as I got closer with people. I'm outrageously embarrassed of my condition and probably always will be.
In 2012, I attended a 3 week pain management clinic. Here they taught us how to live with pain and be mindful. For me personally, this did nothing but bad things for me. The best thing about it was that I met people of the same age in similar situations to me. Having people to talk to that understood fully was a great help and I think everyone should have an opportunity to do this.

Last year I applied for university. I got accepted and was looking forward to moving away from home and getting on with life. Unfortunately, a month after I was due to move, I was rushed to hospital. I had a relapse. I had had one the previous year and this was sorted with stronger painkillers. However, this time things were a lot worse. I had another scan and it showed that something from my previous operation is effecting my nerve now and it needed to be operated on immediately. Although I was scared, I couldn't just do nothing as I had no feeling in my left leg again and was in agony. The care I received from the doctors was amazing. My new surgeon was exceptional. He took so much time to tell me the risks and even the worst case scenarios. This is something that my previous surgeon hadn't done. The operation was a success and afterwards the nerve pain has made a slight improvement. This made me question why my previous surgeon hadn't done this himself and my new surgeon had also questioned this.
The care I got afterwards was also amazing. I had a team of physio’s work with me every day in order for me to start university over a month later.
Unfortunately, as I was so determined to be 'normal' I rushed things. After 3 months at university I have had to move back home as living away from home and the help of my mum made my condition worse again. This was incredibly frustrating for me as once again, my condition had made my life change and stop me from being a 'normal' teenager.

After coming across this website, I think more people should share their stories as it is an incredibly hard thing to go through. If I could help just one person I would be happy, I would love in the future to help young people come to terms with conditions or injuries they have. I am proud of what I have been through, and what I will keep living through for the rest of my life.

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