'˜You realise that small problems in life are not important'
When Samantha Paterson suffered an horrific accident which left her paralysed, her family were told that she was extremely unlikely to survive.
But as they prepared for the worst, she pulled through.
Now the 41-year-old is rebuilding her life. Married and living in a new home, she is looking on the positive side and trying to enjoy each and every day.
Sam, from Hillson Drive in Fareham, tripped and fell when going out for lunch at The Osborne View pub in Hill Head with her now-husband, Ray, 28, in 2014.
She broke her neck and was in a coma for six weeks. When she woke up, she had to undergo a long recovery process.
‘Ray and I had only been seeing each other for six months,’ she says.
‘I went out to the car, but as I got to the door I couldn’t get my foot in and I tripped and went head first.
‘I blacked out. Luckily there was a midwife behind me who was coming into the pub. She saw what happened and called for an ambulance and wouldn’t let anyone move me.
‘The ambulance arrived and they had to go and find Ray. They told him that I wouldn’t make it. They put me in the ambulance and said I probably wouldn’t make it to the hospital.’
During her time in hospital, Ray stayed by her side.
‘They told Ray and my family every day that I probably wouldn’t make it and if I did I would be on breathing support for the rest of my life,’ she adds.
‘Once I did come out of the coma I couldn’t feel anything because I was paralysed. Then one day I moved my toe.
‘I was over the moon and thought “how much more can I do?”.
‘They said that I might be able to move very little, but that I wouldn’t get out of bed again.’
Sam was put in a special bed that turned to help her rehabilitation and she was being fed through her nose.
She was told she wouldn’t be able to do any rehabilitation work until she was able to breathe on her own, which eventually she did.
‘By that time my hands were moving and I started to be able to move my legs,’she says.
In November 2014, she was moved to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit at Salisbury Hospital.
‘I just kept pushing myself and I started getting feeling back in my body. I had to be taken out of bed with a hoist,’ she adds.
‘About two or three weeks before I left, one of the physios said they wanted to see if I could stand. I did it and I took a few steps. I couldn’t believe it.
‘I didn’t think I would be able to get in a chair, never mind take a few steps. That was amazing.’
By the following April, Sam was moved into a nursing home while she waited to find a suitable place to live. She was unable to move back home as her house had stairs.
In August last year, she moved into her new home.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Ray was always there.
‘He gave up everything,’ she adds.
‘He was there every day, seven days a week.’
Ray ended up living at the hospital in special accommodation for relatives at Southampton and he later got a place in Salisbury.
‘It was hell,’ he says.
‘For Sam’s family it was hard too because I had to tell them what the doctors had told me when we first got to the hospital.
‘I said to her parents that I wasn’t going to leave her, so I stuck around and did what I could.
‘What sort of person would see the person that they love be told that they are going to die or have a slim chance of survival and think “that’s not for me”?
Then one day, Ray popped the question.
‘We had spoken about it before,’ he says.
‘I had planned to propose to her anyway, but everything took a back seat. I just took an opportunity and went down to the local jewellers and then waited for a nice day when the doctors were going to allow her to go outside.’
The couple wed at Fareham Register Office on August 26 last year, with a reception at the Solent Hotel.
The day after their wedding, they moved into their new home.
But life has been tough for Sam, who has had to adjust to living as a disabled person.
‘It’s been difficult getting used to being like this,’ she adds.
‘I managed to walk down the aisle which was fantastic. It’s just perseverance to see how far you can get.’
Now Sam says she values each day that she has.
‘I have seen a lot of people in hospital who did give up. They seem to think that because their life has changed that’s the end, and that makes me sad.
‘You do have your bad days. They say I am lucky because I can walk and I can move, but the down side is that I get high levels of pain and get very fatigued.
‘Some days I wake up and I can’t get out of bed.
‘But I just wish people could understand the feeling that life is too short,’ she says.
‘People look at their small problems and they are big to everybody at the time, but they aren’t important.’
Before her accident, animal-lover Sam was organising the Hampshire Pet Fair - a fun event celebrating animals.
But when she suddenly fell into a coma, she was unable to see her hard work pay off and her family took over the responsibility.
Now she is looking forward to enjoying the fair again this year.
‘For me the motivation to get up in the morning was doing the pet fair,’ says Sam (pictured before her accident).
‘I had always wanted to do a big event with animals. I put so much effort into it two years ago, so to not see it really killed me.’
She adds: ‘I do like animals. They are fun and it’s unconditional love that you get. They do give you something in life.’
Sam says of the fair: ‘I wake up in the morning excited. With the amount of work, I just feel so grateful for what my family and friends did making it go ahead the year before.’
The Hampshire Pet Fair takes place on Saturday, August 20 from 10am until 4pm at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.
Visit hampshirepetfair.co.uk for more.