Winning at life! – Brenda’s story …


By Brenda van Eyk

I was asked to participate in the NZST Annual Appeal for 2020 “Winning at Life” by telling you all about some of the moments in my SCI journey where I’ve felt “I’ve got this”. 

Some background first. My SCI journey began on Thursday 31st October 2019 whilst I was relaxing outside in the sun and I fell onto my hands and knees from a garden seat. Just a small fall, no injuries or so I thought.

A few days later I started getting pain in my upper back between my shoulder blades. In the following three weeks I was seen by multiple doctors and physios and told it was a thoracic sprain. It will hurt and take 4-6 weeks to heal they told me. 

In the first couple of weeks following my fall I continued to work, drive my car, do groceries and all my own cares etc. I could not sleep, and I endured pain and spasms as I had never felt before.

On Sunday 24th November, my bladder stopped functioning and I was barely able to walk. I was taken to hospital and luckily transferred to the on-call Spinal Team and the appropriate tests were done.

The outcome? A T7 fracture. Whilst trying to mobilise I had another fall. That night it felt like my body started shutting down. Loss of feeling, sensation, and movement.

On Saturday 30th November I was operated on. I was petrified. Would I survive? Would I be permanently disabled? I had 2 rods and 12 screws put in from T4 – T10 with a T6 – T8 decompression and I survived due to the skills of a great theatre team.

I was transferred to the BSU on Monday 9th December, where I stayed until Friday 20th March – almost five months after my “small fall”.

Below are some of the “I’ve got this” moments I have had thus far:

  1.  Surviving surgery & ICU.
  2. My whole rehab process at BSU – being able to turn in bed, doing some of my own cares, regaining bladder & bowel function, sitting, standing, and then walking short distances with aids.
  3. Getting my power chair and being able to be independent and go out and about.
  4. Doing all my own cares after 3 days out of BSU due to Covid-19.
  5. Losing 52kg in just over 8 months.
  6. Achieving my goals during my Training for Independence Programme.


So, this is my story. My name is Brenda van Eyk a T7 ASIA D Incomplete Paraplegic, who for the remainder of her life will not be the same as before her injury. Yes, there is daily pain, fatigue, hills to climb and valleys to cross, but there is much to be thankful for as well. I am healthier, significantly lighter, I have better and more meaningful relationships with my parents and friends, I have met some amazing people through my journey thus far and I look forward to what is in store for me next and many more “I’ve got this” moments I’m sure. I am winning at life!

I just want to take this moment to say that without the New Zealand Spinal Trust, its staff, volunteers and financial supporters, this new journey that I am on would not have been anywhere as easy as it has been and I am very grateful for everything they do for myself and many other SCI people and their families throughout New Zealand.

Support NZST’s Annual Appeal – Winning at life! 

Published by

Su Marshall

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