A woman who was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord condition that has left her paralysed for the last 14 years has enlisted a team of support including runners from Portchester for this year’s Simplyhealth Great South Run to raise money to help her walk again.
Lucy Dodd was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation when she was 18, which, by the age of 20 left her paralysed from the waist down.
The condition is tangle of blood vessels on her spinal cord that starves the area of oxygen and signals below the injury.
She suffered from mobility problems, which got worse over time and she eventually lost the use of her legs and has spent the last 14 years in a wheelchair.
Earlier this year, she began a fundraising campaign called ‘Lucy’s Legs’ which aims to raise £80,000 to buy a Re-Walk exoskeleton device that will allow her to walk again.
The revolutionary device would allow her to walk by being strapped into this and moving using her body weight and a watch to control this device.
Last year she took part in the Simplyhealth Great South Run in her wheelchair raising money for Spinal Research.
This inspired a team of her family and friends to do the same this year on Sunday 21 October, raising money for her own fundraising campaign.
Among them are Lucy’s friends Owen Jones and Karen Trinder, who are from Portchester.
Lucy, 33, from Aldershot, said: ‘When I was first diagnosed I was devastated, you feel like your world has ended.
‘I had just started university and was loving my new-found freedom and having a great time meeting new people. I suddenly started having mobility problems, which led to me having to leave university, come home and undergo several procedures to try and resolve the problem.
‘It was an incredibly difficult and uncertain time. But, at 18 years old I thought my life can still continue so I had to pick myself up and just carry on.
‘I was diagnosed in a matter of months, but because it’s a rare condition immediately conventional surgery wasn’t an option due to significant risks, so we had to wait to find out what other non-invasive options were available to me.
‘I had such a great support network around me, my family and friends never let me get down about it. I just tried to continue with life as best I could, trying to change the way I did things and carry on as normal.
‘I am now trying to raise £80,000 to buy the robotic exoskeleton which you wear just like a pair of trousers. You’re strapped in and it’s controlled by shifting your weight and also utilising a watch to help you walk again.
‘I had a trial session with the Re-Walk exoskeleton at the end of last year, it was absolutely fantastic, and I just can’t explain how amazing it was to be standing up looking at the world at a normal height again!
‘The first steps were really emotional, I was with my family and friends and it hit me instantly. It was an incredibly emotional day.
‘To have this device, I could carry on and do the things everyone takes for granted like standing up in the kitchen to reach the top cupboard. It would mean the world to me.
‘Last year I took part in the Simplyhealth Great South Run in a wheelchair but this year, because I have tendon damage in my elbows from using the wheelchair I’m not going to be able to. I am hopeful that someone will be able to push me around so that is a possibility.
‘However, my amazing friends and work colleagues have decided to run on my behalf for Lucy’s Legs and I am so grateful for their support.’
Lucy has currently raised over £13,000 towards her target of £80,000. She is determined to raise the funding and says that the results would be life-changing.
The Simplyhealth Great South Run features 20,000 runners who make the 10-mile event their greatest victory around Portsmouth, which starts and finishes on the sea front.
Runners pass through Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home to HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Warrior before crossing the finish line overlooking the Solent.
Lucy, who works as a civil servant for Hampshire County Council, still hopes that she will be able to take part in the run, if someone is able to push her around the course.
She says she has never been able to accept that she will never walk again and wants her fundraising to make her dream a reality.
She added: ‘I want to be able to go for a walk with my family without them pushing me when the terrain gets tough, I want to go shopping with my friends and see over clothes rails.
‘I am trying to organise different events for fundraising. It’s a big target, we are starting by doing some small running events and then the Simplyhealth Great South Run will hopefully raise the profile of my campaign and hopefully get some more donations in to help me.’
To support Lucy’s fundraising campaign, visit: https://www.lucyslegs.com/
Enter the Simplyhealth Great South Run at: Greatrun.org/South