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Defying all odds: Woman paralysed by brain condition competes in skating championships

Carlisle woman Vickie Harkness is defying all of the odds three years after she was diagnosed with the life-threatening brain condition, encephalitis.

Despite being left unable to move, walk or talk, Vickie battled through her recovery and recently competed in a national figure skating competition.

Whilst she was in recovery she decided she wanted to challenge herself and do everything that she had previously been scared to do. Credit: Vickie Harkness

The serious neurological condition causes the brain to swell and can result in stroke like symptoms such as confusion, seizures, changes in personality, difficulty speaking, loss of movement in some parts of the body and loss of consciousness.

Initially her short term memory was affected, but this gradually got worse until her brain stopped being able to send triggers to make her body move. Eventually her organs began to shut down and she rapidly deteriorated.

She spent months battling in hospital before she was allowed to return home, under the condition that she would have 24-hour care from friends, family and wife Shona.

Vickie had to relearn everything she knew, including how to move, talk and walk.

I had the worst two years of my life in recovery. I am now fully recovered, but after the biggest fight imaginable. You’re not supposed to recover really. Not many people do. If you google it, you don’t hear of many people that make a full recovery.

– Vickie Harkness

Whilst in recovery she decided she wanted to challenge herself and do everything that she had previously been scared to do. She completed a NVQ Level 3 in childcare and trained to be an outdoor activities instructor.

What is more amazing is that Vickie's two year recovery has seen her go from needing around the clock care to competing in the British figure skating championships.

She says she has always loved the sport and this motivated her to join the Dumfries team.

Vickie is also using her new found motivation to campaign about her condition, in the hope that more people will recognise encephalitis and be diagnosed earlier.

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