When Julie Maxwell left hospital after weeks of being treated for a badly broken leg, she was keen to get home. But she dreaded being confined to the sofa.
The primary school secretary from Donaghadee in Northern Ireland had been on a trip to the Big Apple with her friend Zara-lee.
But her decision to skate around the famous ice rink at New York’s Rockefeller Centre just one last time had shattered Julie’s holiday – and leg – to pieces.
Fortunately going home was not as bad as Julie had imagined – all because of a little help from a wheelchair.
That fateful lap
“Ice-skating in New York was a long-held ambition of mine,” Julie said.
“It’s the reason I returned to skating in my forties after enjoying the sport as a child. I just loved the exhilaration of being on the ice.”
But on her last lap round the rink, the accomplished skater caught her blade awkwardly, trapping her foot and shattering her leg and ankle.
“I could hear the breaks and cracks in my leg and ankle and I knew I was in big trouble,” Julie said.
When Julie reached hospital, she discovered she had suffered multiple fractures and dislocations.
The doctors agreed to let Julie fly home that afternoon to continue treatment in the UK once they had realigned her leg and set it in a temporary plaster cast.
“I’ve never experienced pain like it in my life – it was horrific,” Julie said.
Long road to recovery
Back in the UK, the reality of Julie’s injuries began to kick-in. She spent several weeks in hospital undergoing surgery to correct a total of seven fractures and three dislocations.
The thought of returning home and being house-bound didn’t bring much comfort.
But Julie’s father Sam is a former British Red Cross volunteer who knew about our mobility aids service which lends people wheelchairs for short-term use.
You might think a wheelchair is something the NHS would have already given Julie – but it’s not that simple.
In England, no official body has any responsibility to provide short-term wheelchair loans. The Red Cross recognises how wheelchairs aid recovery and has been plugging this gap for some time.
It’s a bit different in Northern Ireland where Julie lives. Here the NHS also has no official responsibility – but it recognises the benefits of doing so.
So it gives the Red Cross a portion of the money required to provide a wheelchair loan service, while the remainder is funded by the Red Cross itself.
With a wheelchair, life became a little bit easier for Julie. In fact, she felt indebted to it.
“I simply couldn’t have managed without the wheelchair. It folded and was very lightweight and had a leg extension so I could keep my leg in the correct position,” Julie said.
“It meant I could not only get to my many hospital appointments but could get out and socialise a bit too.”
Julie is gradually getting her life on track and is soon to return to work at St Anne’s Primary School in Donaghadee. She is also writing a book about her experiences.
Give people wheels
Julie was only able to get hold of a wheelchair thanks to the fantastic Red Cross volunteers who run our mobility aids service.
Right now, we’re looking for more volunteers to join our mobility aids team to help provide vital equipment to those who need it most – just like Julie. Fancy it?
- Find out if there are vacancies in your area.