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Errol Carter's Paralysis recovery from Cauda Equina Syndrome

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On Saturday April 13th I experienced paralysis in my legs whilst running. I lost all sensation, strength and feeling in my lower body, resulting in me collapsing.

At the time of publishing (15 May 2024 )I have spent the last 31 days in hospital and have had 2 emergency spinal surgeries on my lower back. Both surgeries had the primary goal of limiting the risk of permanent paralysis.
Whilst the operations were thought to be successful, I have suffered permanent nerve & neurological damage that will affect me & my quality of living for the rest of my life. One of them being my dependence on a catheter.

I was recently told by a specialist that they expect me to remain in hospital as an inpatient, for the next 4-6 weeks. A total of 2-3 months in hospital

I hope with this crowd funding I am able to get the rehabilitation I need, to live as close to a normal life as I can. Nerve damage has no timelines on how long they take to heal, if ever. On average it is 6 - 24 months, after 24 months there is little to no improvement. The waiting time for aftercare rehab from the NHS is 15 months, which is why this page has been created. So I can get private treatments sooner before it's too late. I am doing all I can to front load my efforts, I have been researching different treatments available as well as the nutrition I need such as B12 helping with nerve and disc recovery - no stone will be unturned.
I want to get back to “normal” and then continue my rugby career. I am far from finished.

I am a very proud and independent person, however as time has passed, the realisation and severity of my injury sinking in. I now realise for me to have the best chance of recovering I need the help of others. This is not just a physical battle, the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds is a mental struggle.

I would appreciate it if you could take the time to read my story.

The Injury

The injury occurred in my International debut for Turkey Rugby Union, previously I played Rugby League professionally for 10 years. I am the joint highest appearances for Turkey Rugby League and have previously played for England Students in both 7s (Captain) and Rugby League.

During the game I was passed the ball, I started to sprint when both legs collapsed underneath me. I lost all strength, control and sensation – I was paralysed temporarily. The sensation did come back, but I had immense pain in my lower back/legs as well as the numbing sporadically returning to both legs at different intensities. I played the remainder of the game as we had no substitutions left. Unaware of how serious the injury was.

I flew back to the UK the next day where this got worse and spread to my genitals. I phoned 999 and was told to go to Kings College London hospital ASAP.

I had a scan and immediately after the results they prepared me for surgery - even before having the surgeon approve - highlighting the severity of the injury. I was put to the top of the waiting list and had the next available slot for surgery.

The Surgeries

The MRI showed I had a prolapsed disc and my vertebrae were out of place. Causing a huge amount of pressure on my spinal column and the nerves inside – hence why I was going numb and losing control of my lower limbs. I was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). The goal of the surgery was to decompress the spinal cord and relieve pressure on my nerves – if this does not get done within 24-48 hours the chance of permanent paralysis and damage is hugely increased.

I had a laminectomy, discectomy and decompression surgery on my L4/5 lower back.
They cut out bone from the vertebrae, trimmed and cut out the prolapsed disc and decompressed my spine - all to make more space for my nerves. During the surgery they found fragments of the prolapsed disc that had broken off due to the pressure/internal impact of the sprint on my spine - they removed what they could, but not all.
Post surgery I had weakness in both my legs, (predominantly left) which meant learning to walk again was difficult as well as the numbness in my feet - the strength returned to their satisfaction.
The lasting damage was numbness of both feet and urinary leakage.
Eventually, I gained enough of my walking ability that I was deemed ‘fit’ for discharge.

I was in hospital for 12 days before being discharged (against my will). Within my discharge I was told I needed neurological physiotherapy - the waiting time at Kings College Hospital is 15 months.
It is well documented that after any neurological/spinal injury you have 24 months to recover as much as you can. After this period it is very unlikely to see any improvements.

Within 12 hours of being discharged my health rapidly declined. With the onset of new symptoms (numbness of both genitals/legs/feet and the loss of sensation & strength of my lower limbs)

I phoned Kings Hospital and was told to go A&E ASAP. Not even 24 hours after being discharged I had an MRI and a 2nd emergency spinal surgery for CES. The MRI showed a bulging disc (likely from walking too early/being rushed in rehab - which was my objection to the discharge), alongside a hematoma putting pressure on the spinal cord/nerves from the front. There was a pool of blood from the surgery wound causing pressure from the back - my already damaged spinal cord was being sandwiched from both sides with immense pressure. Each nerve is the size of a human hair. During the surgery the pool of blood was a blood clot, this was removed alongside the hematoma from the back. Decompression surgery with internal serosanguinous drainage.

The 2nd surgery was the most pain I have felt in my entire life. I was bed bound, unable to move for the first 8 days and not leaving the bed for 11 days due to the pain.

Post surgery I was in a much worse position than the 1st surgery. I still had sciatica in both legs, both feet were numb, with limited movement and strength and I had no control of my bladder or bowel. This is still the case at present.

I am unable to feel when my bladder is full nor initiate going to the toilet. I use a removable catheter, whereby I monitor my fluid intake and every 3 hours I go to the toilet. I insert a 30cm tube into my penis to reach and manually open my bladder before disposing of the catheter, I have to do this on average 6 times a day.
This is the case for my bowel movements as well. Daily I have the option of an enema, suppository ( these are manually inserted inside the rectum to initiate what my muscles cannot) or manual evacuation of the faeces.

This is my new normal.

The hope is eventually my bladder will regain control and feel the urge to wee as well as being able to pass urine. This also applies to my bowel movements.
There are various private treatments to stimulate and recover these functions. I have been told I am unlikely to make a full recovery - but this isn't the 1st time someone has said something and I proved them wrong!

The numbness and weakness in my legs has increased. I am at a point where I am putting weight through my feet which causes immense neurological pain. It’s like daggers in my feet, shooting up my legs followed by intense pins and needles in my feet and legs for hours after the pressure. I am told you get used to this over time but it could get better, there is no knowing when or if it will recover. This will be present as I learn to walk and move again.

Nerves do not regenerate, they only heal - for which there is no guidance on timescales.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)?

CES is a serious neurological condition that can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. The condition can severely disrupt a person's physical abilities, mobility, and bowel, bladder and sexual function.

CES is extremely rare, most UK GPs will never have a patient with CES. Figures from the British Association of Spine Surgeons show it affects 6 people per 1 million - I had CES twice within 2 weeks.

The Recovery & Aftercare

I am on a waiting list for the rehabilitation I need but there is a 15 month wait, which is just too long given the short 24 month window I have. Private sessions vary between £80 -£140 an hour or £4,160 - £7,280 a year if I get one session a week. This is just one of the treatments I will need during my rehabilitation.

A full time rehabilitation centre as an inpatient for example is £6,000 for a 7 day stay.

I have created this page so I can go private and get the rehabilitation I need to give me the best chance of recovery and leading a normal life like I had before.
This is just to get to a baseline "normal"- let alone to play sport again.

Final Remarks

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Any donations no matter how big or small collectively will make a big difference, as will sharing this page and my story with others.

My Sporting Career

-10 years as a professional Rugby League Player
Dual code full international for Turkey
- Turkey Rugby League - the joint most capped ever
- Turkey Rugby Union
- England Rugby League students
- England 7s Universities & Captain

My goal is to get back to playing competitive sport where I can play professionally again. In turn giving me the opportunity to be selected and continue my International Rugby career with Turkey. For whom I have also coached the women's National Team.

I play for Cornwall RL in League 1, the third tier of Professional Rugby League.

I became eligible for selection for Turkey Rugby Union this season having joined Chinnor Thame RFC, who have just been promoted to the Championship.

I had and still have aspirations of playing for Turkey 7s who currently compete on the European circuit. In 2027 the world series will be hosted in Istanbul - whereby the host Nations qualifies and competes automatically - this is a long term goal that I want to reach. After Paris 2024, the Rugby 7s Olympic qualification starts with Turkey competing for a space at Los Angeles 2028. I have aspirations to play in the qualifications and have the opportunity to be an Olympian.



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Errol Carter

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