The inspirational Claire Lomas MBE has fundraised £600,000 through challenges including walking the London Marathon in 2012 taking a gruelling 17 days, The Great North Run in 2016 taking 5 days, and has just completed 10 consecutive miles of the Great South Run 2017 in 24 hours #10in24.
We spoke to Claire during her training for the 2017 Great South Run and in this blog post, Claire tells her story of resilience, how she is fundraising and raising awareness of paralysis and how technology is enabling her to live life to the fullest.
It is a very busy time for me; juggling speaking events, two young children (Maisie 6 years and Chloe 8 months) and an upcoming big charity fundraising challenge. However, ten years ago when my life changed in a split second and everything came to a grinding halt, I discovered that one of the worst things was having no reason to get up in the mornings. I never complain about being busy…
life is about living it to the fullest.
My life has certainly taken a totally different route to what I had ever expected. I was a chiropractor and top-level event rider prior to my accident that left me paralysed from the chest down – so I had to rebuild my life from scratch. It wasn’t without some seriously dark times. I questioned how I would ever be happy and be paralysed. I never sat still before that fateful day, but it has been worth the battle to get to where I am now.
I discharged myself from the hospital after only 8 weeks, as I felt I wanted to do more rehabilitation and I have continued to do that ever since. I have benefitted from some incredible technology that I use to keep myself fit and healthy and take on fundraising challenges. On Saturday I embark on my fourth event in the ReWalk suit. I am attempting to walk the 10 miles Great South Run in 24 hours, so I will be tackling the course throughout the night and it looks like the weather may add to the gruelling physical and mental challenge.
The suit is pioneering technology that allows me to walk by sensing the tilt of my pelvis. I use the parts of my body that aren’t paralysed to shift my weight at the correct time for the suit to take a step, but even standing in the suit when I can’t feel the ground beneath me requires my concentration. every bump on the pavement is a huge obstacle for me. Also, as I have no core strength, my arms (using crutches) are helping control my body, and the more fatigued I become the harder it is on my arms and shoulders. I have now raised over £600k to help cure paralysis and the forthcoming challenge will add to that ever-increasing total. I am driven to help get a treatment that will return sensation and movement to paralysed people because, when I was in hospital, I saw a lot of patients with neck injuries. I feel genuinely lucky to have the use of my arms so I make sure I use what I have to raise vital funds.
Being upright has many health benefits and I combine this with my FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) bike. I have 16 electrode pads on my legs and glutes and the computer is programmed to send impulses to the muscles at the right time to produce a pedalling motion. It gives me a cardio work out, improves circulation, muscle mass and bone density- I use this 5 times a week and my legs do not look paralysed.
I am grateful for not only the rehab equipment I have but also the sporting gear. Losing the ability to compete in the sport I loved left a huge gap in my life and it wasn’t until I changed my mindset and started to think positively that I discovered things I enjoyed again. Mono-skiing was the first sport I found after my accident that helped return my self-esteem, then came hand-cycling and most recently something I never dreamt I could do – riding motorbikes. In July I got my race licence and I can now get out on the track and ride with mainly able-bodied men!
So that day that I thought had ruined my life, the day that closed so many doors, has actually led me to even more opportunities.