Maisie Graham, who was 15 when she collapsed at Horizon Community College after complaining of backache and a tingling sensation in her legs, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis (TM) - a rare neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal chord.
Maisie, who was otherwise fit and healthy, had been waiting to go into assembly when she felt a sharp, shooting pain in her back. Within ten minutes was doubled up in pain and struggling to breathe.
She collapsed on the floor of the matron’s office while on the phone to her mum, Michelle, and was rushed to Barnsley Hospital where doctors believed she had been injured at rugby practice the night before.
Having been transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, transverse myelitis was diagnosed, leaving Maisie wheelchair-bound.
Now 19, Maisie, of Keresforth Road, Dodworth, won the Spinal Injury Association’s young person of the year award at a ceremony held last week at the home of Williams, the Formula One racing team, in Oxfordshire.
The award is presented to a spinal cord injured person aged 25 or under, who has provided an outstanding level of contribution to the community and their peers.
Maisie told the Chronicle: “It meant so much to me to be nominated, so winning it goes above and beyond that.
“I would tell anyone who’s been recently diagnosed with a spinal injury to never feel alone - get in contact with spinal injury charities and people in similar situations. You will grow in confidence and independence in more ways than you would have before.”
Maisie’s spinal injury has not held her back and she’s due to start a fine arts course at Nottingham Trent University in September, having received support from the Back-Up Trust, where she acts as a youth advisor and a wheelchair skills trainer.
Quentin Underhill, from the Spinal Injury Association, added: “We know first-hand how important people like Maisie are to others going through rehabilitation and adjustment after a spinal injury.
“To take her own experience of spinal cord injury and use it to help others is priceless. We’re very proud to play a small role in recognising her hard work and dedication to the spinal cord injured community.”
At the time, generous Barnsley companies dug deep and transformed Maisie’s family’s house in a DIY SOS-style makeover, making it more adaptable and easier for her to move around after an initial seven-month stay in hospital.
She added: “The illness came as quite a shock. My back started hurting and I just thought I needed to walk it off, but my legs started to go tingly. My shoulder blades started hurting and my legs went weak and I couldn’t stand up - I didn’t know what was happening.”