Helping Rachel put her life back on track

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Helping Rachel put her life back on track

This is Rachel, one of our Exercise on Referral customers here at Cheshire Change Hub.

Rachel, a mum of two, was born with a rare spinal condition called sacral agenesis, a congenital disorder which affects a baby’s development. In Rachel’s case, her legs and feet failed to develop properly. During her childhood, she struggled to walk and by her late teens relied on walking aids and a wheelchair.

“A lot of doctors were surprised that I was still able to walk as I got older and even more surprised when I became the first person in the UK with the condition to give birth – twice. Then in 2013 I remember experiencing more and more pain, and one morning I simply couldn’t move my legs.”

This devastating blow was compounded by the traumatic death of her unborn daughter during her pregnancy, which Rachel believes was the trigger behind her mental health issues. She became increasingly depressed and full of anxiety, and even small things became huge problems for her.

“I used to think my husband was going to die, or I thought something was happening with the children. Because I was now in a wheelchair all the time I found it hard to get out. I’d been used to going to the old EPIC centre to swim but had stopped, so I put on three stone in weight.”

Her friends and family were so concerned for her safety that Rachel was sectioned under the mental health act. For 3 years, she was admitted and discharged from different hospitals across the region. Medication helped, but the key drug which experts had advised she take was expensive and not routinely available on the NHS.

In February this year though she discovered that we at Cheshire Change Hub could be her lifeline. Being referred by her GP for her mental health issues, she joined our Exercise on Referral programme, meaning she could get active in her local Brio centre for free.

“I was so sceptical at first. I went to Ellesmere Port Sports Village expecting to find they couldn’t cope with me, let alone anyone in a wheelchair – how wrong I was. The staff are so experienced in assisting wheelchair users and they have an attitude which encourages you to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.”

Rachel now visits the centre 6 times a week! She’s rekindled her love of swimming and is a familiar face in both the gym and aqua classes.

“Coming here has completely changed my outlook for the future. I couldn’t help feel that people patronised me when I was out, but when I’m at the gym I can tell that other users are genuinely happy to see me. It’s made me feel like an equal for the first time. My husband has also been inspired to come along and he’s loving it. My Cheshire Change Hub programme is coming to an end soon but there’s no way I’m stopping. I can’t imagine not coming to the Sports Village and making the most of life”, she said.

Take a look at our Exercise on Referral page to find out how your GP can refer you for a free exercise programme at your local Brio centre.