The Stoke Newington mum had suffered from agonising pain and fatigue all through her second pregnancy that left her unable to sleep and turning to hot baths for comfort - but was unaware of two tumours (one 8cm long) on her spine.
When she went into labour and opted for an epidural, one of the tumours haemorrhaged. Her son Joseph was born healthy and continues to thrive.
She said: “I was in the worst pain I ever experienced in my life. I became paralysed from the waist down and couldn’t move more than twitching a toe. It was very scary – I didn’t think I would walk again. But I had an amazing experience of the NHS care at the Royal London – they performed emergency surgery to try to remove the tumour.”
Medics removed a large, slow-growing and benign tumour from the end of Claire’s spinal cord – but it was complex surgery close to numerous nerve endings and a second operation was needed weeks later to remove more of the tumour without compromising the nerves.
Four months of rehabilitation followed – Claire, 37, learnt to walk again, though she still uses a crutch and her surgery-battered nerves will take time to recover so she still has some numbness.
During that four months Claire’s husband Alistair looked after their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ellie and their newborn baby – she only saw her children every couple of days and later, once intensive physiotherapy started, just once a week.
She added: “Being separated from my children was horrific. As a new mum with all those hormones swirling inside of me, not being able to be with my baby was devastating – I also grieved for the time I missed with our daughter. But I had to push all that to one side and focus on my recovery. We coped because I’ve an amazing support network – our families have been incredible.
“I’ve had amazing medical care and met some other patients whose stories inspired me to be resilient and positive – they added to my determination to push myself to get better.”
Claire, who works in healthcare communications, recently underwent radiotherapy to remove the second tumour.
Though Claire is growing stronger every day, some impacts of her spinal tumour could last a lifetime – she’s likely to have lifelong difficulties with her bladder and bowel and only time will tell if the numbness in her legs and toes disappears.
Now Claire, who hasn’t ridden a bike for 15 years, is preparing to take part in the Superhero Triathlon, a sporting event this August in Windsor for people with disabilities. She’ll cycle two kilometres, walk one kilometre and swim 150 metres in open water.
She’s raising funds for the Spinal Injuries Association – a charity helping people with spinal cord injuries live fulfilled lives.
She said: “They talk a lot in rehab about having goals – this triathlon has come at the perfect time – it’s the perfect goal – it’ll help me get stronger and I’m also inspired to be doing something for the spinal injury community.”
To sponsor Claire, visit: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/Clairermartin
They talk a lot in rehab about having goals – this triathlon has come at the perfect time – it’s the perfect goal
Posted 20th June 2019