Doing the impossible

To whom it may concern,

I hope you are well and having a good start to the new year. This year I have made it my mission to share my story and to hopefully use the hardship I have faced in a positive way. I want to show people what I have learnt and the battles I have faced yet i ‘ m still here fighting on.

I am 20 years old and haven’t had the easiest few years, like a lot of us with the way things have been. For a bit of back story, at 13 years old I became the youngest person to get into the GB team. At 15 years old I found myself travelling all over the world to compete and went on to race at the World Championships in the Under 18 category at just 25. I was the youngest to ever compete and not a lot was expected from my performance. However I came away with gold medals in both my disciplines. I had officially beaten the world record. Things only went up from there. Balancing school and training 6 hours a day, I loved it. Went on to win 7 national titles, 2 GB records as well and European and World champion again. However in December 2018 I suffered a life threatening brain injury in a freak accident. I spent the next 10 months in hospital and fighting for my life. I lost the ability to breathe, talk, eat, I was locked in my own body at just 16. I fought hard to relearn everything again and re-learn who I was. 18 months after the accident I got back in my boat. Something the doctors had told me to give up on as I would never be able to train or even compete again. I went on just 2 years after my accident to win 2 silver medals at the world championships and become national all round champion. I was on top of the world. I had done something I was told was impossible!

At the time I still had many health issues and was regularly in and out of hospital but this didn’t matter to me because I was doing what I loved. Covid came along and all my training was at home but I worked hard. I went on to get a full time offer with British canoeing in Nottingham and a scholarship to study physiotherapy at Nottingham University. This had been my dream since my kayaking took off. I was training full time and it became my job. I couldn’t have been happier.

Unfortunately in November 2021, one week after being selected for the senior team I was involved in a white water kayak accident. I was left with life changing injuries and in a coma in the ICU. My family were told to say their goodbyes and to prepare for what was to come. I was not going to make it through this and the decision to turn the life support off had been made.However just an hour before they planned to, they saw some progress. I was hanging on, I wasn’t ready to let go. This wasn’t my time. I went on to spend many months in ICU and facing many setbacks including sepsis 3 times, pneumonia and many complex infections. I was fighting for my life but I was nowhere near ready to give up. At the time I was in a hospital 3 hours away from home and in May 2022 I was moved to a specialist neuro facility closer to home where the real hard work began. I had relearn to speak but my left side was completely paralysed, severe weakness in right leg, dystonia, unable to swallow and many other debilitating symptoms. At just 19 I was fighting for my life once again. I was needing round the clock care and having to recover from serious injuries. I experienced many setbacks and kept on ending up in Intensive care. I was diagnosed with a very rare neurological disorder. But I was working hard in my 6 hours of physio a day. I treated it like training, but a different outcome. In November 2022 I moved home to my adapted house. IUt was hard at first going from this fultimer athlete, adventurous person with their life ahead of me too dependent on carers and a wheelchair. My mental health started to take a turn and I felt so alone. I was seeing all my friends away at university whilst I felt so stuck, my life had been turned upside down. But I started to talk to people, to set small goals each day and slowly I was making positive decisions for myself. And then the big day came, I got back in a boat. Thanks to para rowing I was able to get in an adapted boat to be back on the water, my happy place. It’s a feeling I will never forget. I remember sitting there in this boat with the coach, promising myself I wasn’t going to give up and promising myself to give rehab my all.

I was still in physio 6 hours a day 5 days a week. I was improving. In December I decided to take time off to live some normality with my friends and be a somewhat normal 20 year old. So where am I now? I am still a full time wheelchair user with paralysis in the left leg, I have some functions if my right leg is back and my left arm has improved a huge amount and I am still working on this. I have made incredible progress the last few months. Having doctors tell you you won’t survive, then won’t ever get better and ever live a normal life again but I am proving them wrong. I am still in physio and working my hardest but I am also starting to form my new life. I have been training with the para rowing team and I am now going for GB para selection. I have just entered a 5k running race, I am going to make what was once impossible, so possible. I am back training everyday in the gym and learning how to live my new adapted life at just 20 years old. But I still believe I will continue to improve, I will walk again.

I am looking to get my story out there. I want to show so many others that even when you are told to give up, you decide, you choose to fight. It is all within you, you just have to find it. If you had told 19 year old Georgia at the start of all this she would be doing what she is right now, she would never have believed you. But I am all about proving people wrong!! Things are only as impossible as you tell yourself they are and I will never let my disability define me.

Photo credit: Image provided by the storyteller.

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georgia carmichael