Nicki And Eleanor To Realise Dream Of Walking Together

Great Comeback 3

Entries are still being taken for the Junior and Mini Great Birmingham Run and are available online here or in person by visiting Up & Running on Temple Street, Birmingham between 10am and 4.00pm on Saturday 15 October.

A FORMER police officer left paralysed from the chest down after a car accident while on duty will fulfil a dream of walking with her ten-year-old daughter when she takes part in the Junior Great Birmingham Run using revolutionary robotic legs.

Mum Nicki Donnelly, 33, will take on the 2.5km distance through the streets of Birmingham on October 16 with the aid of a ReWalk exoskeleton robotic suit.

Nicki will join daughter Eleanor in the event, which forms part of the Great Birmingham Run weekend where up to 20,000 people are expected to take part in the Junior, Mini and half marathon in the second city.

The event will be a culmination of a dream for Nicki and Eleanor, who had never walked alongside her mum following the injury, sustained while on duty for West Midlands Police in September 2009.

The accident resulted in delayed spinal cord injury leading to paralysis in 2011 following unsuccessful treatments and rehabilitation.

Nicki spent two further years in specialist hospitals, receiving full-time care, which meant missing Eleanor's first day at school.

And Eleanor's wish on her fifth birthday was merely to see her mum walk again.

Nicki said: “When I became paralysed I went from being independent and superfit to literally wasting away. Being a police officer was an enormous part of my identity.

“For a long time after the accident I thought my life was over and felt very guilty that I couldn't take care of Eleanor in the way I wanted to. I still feel that.

“What's more devastating was the effect on my daughter. Whenever I talked to my daughter, I was looking up at her instead of the other way around.

“No person should have to have their freedom of choice taken away from them, this is what I have to fight for every day with my daughter.

“On my daughter's fifth birthday she didn't want a birthday party – she just wished for her mum to walk and be happy again.

“Eleanor had little memory of me walking. All she remembers is I lived in and out of hospital, then when she was five mummy was whisked away.”

Nicki received her ReWalk Robotic Exoskeleton courtesy of the Gerald Ronson Foundation, which looks after officers who are injured in the line of duty, and is now the UK ambassador for the company.

Now, she walks her daughter to school – a total of 1.2 miles.

It's a dream come true for Nicki and Eleanor – who will be raising money to take part in more challenges following their Junior Great Birmingham Run – but also a realisation of hard work in adapting to the revolutionary technology.

“When I first tried my new ReWalk legs it was very emotional,” explained Nicki. “I had to undergo fitness training which incorporated gym work, weights, yoga, cardio, physio and hydrotherapy to build my core to use the system.

“I had never stood in a standing frame because I was weakened by infections in my joints in the early years of my spinal cord injury.

“But I was absolutely determined I would get up for my daughter.

“Standing for the first time with Eleanor was a magical moment. It was like slow motion as I rose to my feet and she looked so happy and said 'I'm looking up to you, my mummy."

While also coming to terms with her paralysis, Nicki, along with her daughter, has to live with the degenerative condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects connective tissues and impacts on mobility.

She added: “Both my daughter and I suffer with a degenerative bone and joint disease which causes great difficulty in walking.

“My daughter will never give up on walking and neither will I, and my daughter's fight to walk with me is the same fight I have faced to walk with my daughter. I will be with her every step of the way.”

Nicki also suffers with a heart condition that prevents her from walking and standing long distances.  Remarkably she will not give up her fight for her freedom of choice to walk for as along as she can with her daughter.

Nicki became the first police officer to receive her very own ReWalk Robotic Exoskeleton. She hopes to work with UK police forces to help more injured officers come forward showing the benefits of ReWalk.

She said: “My ReWalk is a life changing technology that needs to be heard in the forces. The way to do that is through my public work and getting the support from everyone.”

Nicki, who also models with Models of Diversity, has been invited to attend the Pride of Birmingham Awards alongside Eleanor, in recognition of the service to her country and as an inspirational role model to others.

She added: “I am very grateful to the Foundation for their donation and for providing me the chance to stand and walk again”.

“They told me I'd be able to walk again and own my own ReWalk Exoskeleton but I didn't really believe them.

“I'd been through so many treatments and therapies that hadn't worked. It broke my heart and I was used to my wheelchair life. My wheelchair had become part of me.”

Nicki recently returned from Munich as a VIP influential speaker at Bits and Pretzels Founders Festival, with speakers Kevin Spacey and Sir Richard Branson.

She said: “When I suffered my SCI, I put a lot of hopes and plans on a shelf. I did not think I would ever be able to walk in a race or travel to places. Now, I am dusting off the bucket list and inspiring others at the same time.”

To support Nicki's cause, visit bit.ly/support4nicki

Entries are still being taken for the Junior and Mini Great Birmingham Run and are available online here or in person by visiting Up & Running on Temple Street, Birmingham between 10am and 4.00pm on Saturday 15 October.