After breaking her spine, Holly went back to work for five days before being unable to move her legs completely. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

By Alyce Collins


A HORRIFYING fall broke this woman’s SPINE but doctors failed to notice and sent her away without realising until she woke up a week later PARALYSED from the waist down.

Tattoo artist, Holly Witney (26) from Dover, UK, was prescribed Quetiapine in January 2017 to control her mental health. However, in the days after starting it, she started to black out randomly, with no control over when it happened.

The first blackout was in a pub with her friend, but the second time was more troublesome. Holly was stood at the top of her stairs when she lost control and fell down the stairs in her house. When she awoke, her back hurt but she hoped it was just pain from the impact.

Holly broke her spine but doctors weren’t listening to her when she said the pain was still present, before realising her spine was still fractured after surgery. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

Holly went to the hospital to get it checked and no issues were found, so she was given a shot of Valium before being sent home. Holly went to work but couldn’t shake the pain and by Saturday, six days after falling down the stairs, Holly woke up unable to move her legs, paralysed from the waist down. She was taken to hospital in an ambulance where an MRI confirmed she had broken her back.

The damage from the fall had caused disc protrusions, sequestrated discs and moderate spinal stenosis. An emergency microdiscectomy was necessary to remove the discs which were herniated.

Holly’s struggles with pain didn’t subside after surgery, and although she regained movement in her legs, she lives in fear. She can no longer go for long walks, do gardening or go ice skating because if she were to fall over, she could become permanently paralysed.

Since April 2017, Holly has been seeking referrals to help her recover, but doctors have dismissed her queries repeatedly. Holly felt ignored and started to lose faith in the staff who didn’t seem to want to help her recover, despite telling her that she was too young to be experiencing problems with mobility.

After breaking her spine, Holly went back to work for five days before being unable to move her legs completely. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

“I was prescribed Quetiapine as my GP and I were trialling suitable medications for me at the time,” said Holly.

“A day after taking the medication, I started experiencing blackouts. The first was while I was at the pub with my friend. Then, later that same day, I was stood at the top of the stairs and I had another blackout. I woke up at the bottom of the stairs.

“I wasn’t that concerned when I blacked out down the stairs – I knew something was a little off but didn’t think it was anything major. I ended up going to hospital for an X-ray and was given a shot of Valium and told I was fine.

“I returned to work for the week, but I started developing a lot of back pain and started limping. By the Saturday, I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t move my legs. I had an emergency MRI and was told I was being prepared for emergency spinal surgery because I’d broken my spine. I remember lying on the trolley waiting to go into surgery, silently crying.

“I woke up in recovery a few hours later, in insane amounts of pain. Some muscle had been removed, they shaved some spine down and did a microdiscectomy.

“I have significant scarring from the first surgery, bladder weakness due to weakened nerves, disc protrusions, significant disc disease, both sides of my spine have sequestrated discs, leg nerve pain, restless leg syndrome, no lumbar extension and moderate spinal canal stenosis.

Scan images from June 2017 showing the result of the spinal injections Holly had after surgery as surgeons tried to recover the herniated discs. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

“I had a pretty rough recovery as I didn’t really have anyone to look after me. I had one friend who would come and help me get to the toilet or change my dressing. I mainly just stayed in bed for four weeks, did some little walks and slept a lot.

“My spine got worse due to not knowing when to stop. I would try and lift things on my own, and my job didn’t help things as I would be sat hunched up in awkward positions to tattoo, and it caused too much pain, so I had to leave the job.

“My injury has stopped me from working and enjoying things I used to do, like ice skating, hiking and going to gigs. It breaks my heart that I’m unable to do these things anymore. I’m terrified of attempting to ice skate again because if I fall then I’d be completely paralysed.”

Holly has been fighting for further treatment and care since the accident, and in February 2019 she found out that the bottom of her spine has fractured in four places and she has four herniated discs. However, doctors weren’t sure how long her spine had been that way as she was dismissed from doctors on multiple occasions.

Holly tattooing a client, which she loved until having to give it up due to pain. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

Having to push to be listened to has made Holly want to show others that they shouldn’t let their problems get diminished. Holly believes that her young age has made some doctors underestimate her injuries, causing them not to hear her out.

“I am not hopeful for a full recovery. Mainly because the nurses left me to heal on my own, there was no physio provided. I have been told my spine will never be right again as it’s so damaged and full of disc disease,” said Holly.

“I found a new doctor and am having a nerve root block and facet joint injections in coming weeks. They only have a 30 per cent chance of working, but at this point I will take any treatment due to how much pain I’m constantly in.

Holly is waiting for injections which will hopefully help her pain management. MDWfeatures / Holly Witney

“I believe that everyone deserves treatment. Younger people should be treated just as fast as those who are older. I’ve been told by countless GPs and specialists that I’m ‘too young’ to be experiencing this.

“I left work in January 2019 and since then I’ve been miserable. I feel trapped in the house all day with no purpose to serve. It breaks you down to your absolute lowest. I had no creative outlet, sitting at my desk at home to draw or paint was just too painful.

“Since I am unable to work or sit and draw as I used to, I’ve discovered a love for cross stitching and also doing makeup. They’re my creative outlets while I’m like this.

“I didn’t think that at the age of 26 I would have broken my spine and be contemplating the rest of my life in a wheelchair.”


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