Leaving her ‘perfect’ new bungalow and getting back behind the wheel of a car to drive herself to her physio session, Angela Menzies has her independence back after a horror car crash which almost claimed her life.
A head-on collision in the early hours of a summer morning in 2016 caused Angela to break almost every bone in her body – including her legs, knees, hips and wrists.
She also fractured her pelvis, ribs, sternum, right clavicle, her toes, punctured her lung and suffered tissue damage to her stomach.
They were injuries which left her facing a long, difficult and uncertain road to recovery. She was in a coma for a month and spent four months in hospital.
There was certainly no guarantee of ever walking again.
Today however, less than three years on and thanks to a complete package of support provided through her personal injury compensation claim, she is a woman enjoying independence again.
Angela is building up her walking distance unaided during her physiotherapy sessions, managing between 16 and 20 meters in her latest sessions in May 2019.
Slowly but surely, her walking speed is increasing too, as she becomes more confident back on her feet.
“It’s hard and I have some good days and some where I really struggle at physio, but I really feel I am getting there now. It is so wonderful to be making progress like this. It makes me feel so positive, and so thankful,” she said.
Legal claim has covered cost of physical and psychological support – and a new home
Angela, 59, has been supported since her accident by specialist catastrophic injury claims specialist Samuel McFadyen, of Hudgell Solicitors, who has been leading her case and negotiating with the insurers of the other vehicle involved in the accident, Aviva.
Between the two parties, a full commitment was made from the outset to ensure Angela’s recovery was made the priority at all times, with the insurer agreeing to fully fund all rehabilitation costs and provide an extensive package of physical, psychological and financial support.
Angela’s ongoing support is led by a dedicated case manager, Sarah Cooke, of Bush & Company Rehabilitation, a specialist firm appointed jointly by Hudgell Solicitors and Aviva.
In the initial days, psychological support focused on coping strategies to manage Angela’s low mood and anxiety levels, whilst occupational therapy aimed to help her become more independent and less reliant on family supervision.
Support was provided to help her sleep better and manage pain and discomfort, as she was forced to sleep on a sofa at home.
Adaptations were also made to the family’s three-bedroomed semi-detached home in Bradford, such as door widening between her lounge and kitchen and hand rails being fitted outside and on the internal stairway.
Angela was also provided with a specialist ergonomic stool, which raises and tilts allowing her to prepare food and drink and reach work tops. She still uses the chair today, but now relies less on it.
Despite all this support, life at home still proved a struggle, especially given the access to her house involved a number of steps through the garden, before she even reached her front door.
“There was so much done for me at our old house and I was improving all the time but I was still trapped and couldn’t go out on my own in my wheelchair,” Angela said.
“It was then that Sam asked me to start looking around at bungalows in the area and what price range they were in.”
As part of the ongoing claim, a substantial interim payment was agreed which has enabled Angela and her husband to purchase a bungalow.
Its design provides easy access from the front drive to the door, a large living room, two bedrooms and a large diner kitchen.
Narrow corridors enable Angela to walk the entire house unaided as she uses the walls for support. The bathroom includes a large shower and seat, all aspects that have given her full independence.
Since moving in this April, she says it has transformed her life.
“When Sam contacted me and said that Aviva were agreeable to an interim payment which would give me the funds to purchase a bungalow I was blown away. I had to pass the phone over to my husband as I thought I was going mad,” she said.
“It has given me total independence. I can walk through every room using the walls for support and then use the worktops in the kitchen to lean on.
“I’m able to independently shower and feel fully clean now, rather than simply having to hand wash when John isn’t here. I can also do other small things alone, like getting up to go to the toilet in the night. It may sound small but it has been years since I could do that.
“It has transformed how I have lived since the accident. It is all about being able to do more for myself.
“I can’t thank Sam and Hudgell Solicitors enough. I see so many people in hospital who have suffered similar serious injuries and they have had nowhere near the same level of support and help I have had through Hudgells. It has been tremendous.”
Automatic car has helped Angela get back behind the wheel
Whilst enjoying her new found independence at home, Angela is also doing so in the community, having been given the all-clear to get back on the road earlier this year.
Thanks to the support of the William Merrit Centre in Leeds, a charity and a social enterprise that offers assessments of people’s physical and cognitive ability to drive a vehicle safely, Angela is now able to drive a specially adapted automatic car.
“Like moving into a new house, being able to drive a car again was another huge step forward,” she said.
“My family were worried about me getting back behind the wheel, and especially the thought of me driving alone given what happened to me before, but it has been a positive thing for me.
“I stick to the quieter roads and I won’t go on the main busy roads, but I feel fine behind the wheel and my husband has said I am a better driver than before.”
Having undergone 15 operations so far, including hip and knee replacements, having metal rods replaced in her right leg last year and stem cell treatment in her left leg as her bones failed to reunite sufficiently, 2019 has been a year of great progress so far.
And although still facing further surgery – not least another total replacement right knee, abdominal flank repair and surgery on her left wrist –the positive progress made, particularly since the turn of the year, has left Angela feeling in a much better place.
She is even talking about completing a charity walk within the next 18 months, such is her determination.
She added: “2018 was a difficult year because I was either in hospital having surgery or at home in recovery. I have had setbacks with my physical recovery, which is only to be expected. As one part of me has improved and I have started doing more physically, there have been other problems to overcome.
“I always remember my doctor saying to me when he first saw me after the accident that I was just a bag of broken bones.
“I am seeing progress each week now though, and my physiotherapy now is focused on ensuring I make the quickest possible recovery from the surgery I am still to have. I’ll be walking well in a year’s time. That is a promise, and I’m targeting completing a charity walk.”
Needs assessed by specialists at all times and support provided
Specialist solicitor Samuel McFadyen, of Hudgell Solicitors, says it is really pleasing to see Angela making such great progress.
“Angela is an inspirational person and from the very beginning she has been determined to do her all to make the best possible recovery from her life-changing injuries,” he said.
“Angela’s needs have been continually changing since we first met her, and that is why we established a team of experts who are fully able to assess her at all times and make recommendations over the care and support she needs to make the best possible recovery.
“From the initial days where the focus was on lessening her pain at home, helping her overcome the psychological impact of what had happened to her and providing support and equipment to make her comfortable at home, we are now at a stage where support is making a clear, visible positive difference.
“The insurers, Aviva, have been incredibly supportive and have always put the need of Angela first, agreeing to support everything that has been recommended by the team of specialists instructed to advise on her care.
“Angela still has some major hurdles ahead but there is nobody more aware of that, and nobody more determined to overcome them than Angela herself. We will certainly be by her side as she continues on her journey to recovery.”