This week the country has been celebrating Woman’s Sport Week, the brainchild of Women in Sport. The initiative has received high-profile support from the likes of Garry Neville, Nicola Adams and Jessica Ennis-Hill.
Help for Heroes Sports Recovery is proud to work with a number of hugely inspirational women, who have harnessed the power of sport on their journey to fight-back from devastating injuries and illness to rebuild their lives.
One of these women is Nikki Paterson, a Para-Canoeist for British Canoeing. She served nine years with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers and was injured in 2010. Help for Heroes has supported her throughout her recovery. This is her story.
“I remember everything vividly – too vividly sometimes,” recounts Nikki Paterson, 25, from Nottingham, “I flew 240 feet through the air, landing on the floor. There was lots of spinning, loads of dizziness.”
That was the moment a car hit Nikki, forever changing her life. She was rushed to Hospital, where a trauma team were preparing to save her.
“I had ruptured my sacroiliac artery and was bleeding out quickly. The doctors kept saying ‘you need to stay still’. Then, my heart stopped. The next thing I remember is waking up in Intensive Care.”
The doctors spent two years, and more than 12 operations, trying to save Nikki’s paralysed right leg. But, in 2012, due to a serious bone infection, she was left with no choice but to have it amputated.
“Realising my right leg was never going to work again was a huge blow. I’d gone from being really fit to not being able to stand-up.”
Nikki decided to put all her energy into fighting the devastation her accident caused. She started her battle at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court.
“I couldn’t weight-bear through either of my legs for a long time so the swimming pool Help for Heroes funded at Headley Court played a huge part in my recovery.
“Later, I went to an adaptive sports event and realised that the activities on offer through Help for Heroes Sports Recovery could change my life.
“Take rock climbing, I thought ‘I’ve got one leg; I’ll never be able to do it’. But I was encouraged to try it and was so happy to discover I still could; it was a huge moment.”
Gradually, Nikki found herself feeling physically and mentally tougher and realised that she had gained this strength through sport.
“All the activities I did with Help for Heroes Sports Recovery really built up my confidence, which got me to the point where I wanted to see if I could do one sport, at an elite level.”
Nikki wanted to test the waters and had heard of an elite sport transition programme for wounded military; the brainchild of Help for Heroes and the British Paralympic Association. She took the first step and attended a talent ID day, which measured her baseline physical abilities. Nikki was over the moon when her potential in Para-canoe led to an invite to the full transition programme.
In 2014Nikki’s hard work was rewarded when she was selected as part of British Canoeing’s Para-canoe team. Having now competed internationally, and with her star on the rise, Nikki reflects on what lies ahead.
“My training is going really well and I’d love to be selected for the Rio Paralympic Games. But, my biggest dream, although it sounds clichéd, is simply to be the best I can be.
“I know Help for Heroes will be here to help me do that in the future because they’ve been there every step of the way so far. The Charity is like a safety blanket; it’s a good feeling to have. Honestly, if you’re looking for any sort of help just get in touch with them – it’s one of the best things I ever did.”
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