I was only 13. I was so ill I wasn’t even thinking properly I was just concentrating on staying alive. Being scared wasn’t an option at the time.
It started off as a runny nose and then I began sweating and I had hives. And then I struggled to breath as my throat and tongue were swelling rapidly. I had to go to hospital. My heart beat slowed down as all of my internal organs were shutting down. All of a sudden I had a burning sensation from my hips down and passed out.
I then went unconscious for a while, I don’t know how long for. But when I woke up I needed to go to the toilet. But I couldn’t stand up or put weight on my legs without them spasming. I was in a hospital bed the whole time so I didn’t know that during this time I couldn’t use my legs.
I had a rare reaction from the anaphylactic shock called transverse myelitis. This caused a swelling on my spine, which controlled my legs. The swelling left me unable to walk and I couldn't put weight on my legs without them spasming for 5 and a 1/2 months.
I was in a wheelchair for six months.
Luckily the swelling on my spine went but it has left me with permanent damage, mainly on the left side of my body, with my left side having a delay.
My whole left side of my body is now colder in temperature than the right side. I also have no pain sensation.
I am very lucky though that I can walk again as I do know people who have suffered with transverse myelitis and they have not been able to walk again.
Before I came out of the wheelchair I was so determined that I would walk again. My mum knew how determined I was. So I said to her that when I come out of the wheelchair I want to do gymnastics. But after this certain situation I am a great believer in that everything happens for a reason.
I started gymnastics in July 2012, purely because I said that if I can ever walk again I would like to do artist gymnastics.
I have lots of disabilities but my autism and my left side delay and nerve damage qualify for disability gymnastics. I also have dyslexia, moderate hyper mobility, information processing disorder, one kidney smaller than the other, anaphylaxis and I also have no pain respecters. I have had autism and all of the learning disabilities since I was born and I attend a special needs autistic school. To me it’s just being Holly. I don’t know any different I was born like it and I will die like it. My family and my mum have just adjusted to it because it is who I am.
I have only been doing gymnastics for a year and eight months yet my achievements are unheard of. I have already achieved a lot within this time.
I hold six british champion titles
to my name already. I think with gymnastics there are no limits and the possibilities are endless and that’s why I love the sport. When you have trained so long for a skill and you finally nail it, you want to treasure that moment forever.
In 2012 I won floor and vault british champion. In 2013 I won floor, vault, beam, all-around british champion in class. I was selected for the high performance squad in team GB. This is the top squad.
I love performing especially when all goes to plan. All the long hours of practicing makes it all worth it and I wouldn’t change it for the world I love it.
My future looks really bright. I have my first international competition in May, for three days, with 30 other nations. I would like to achieve much more as I know I can.
I would like to carry on with my personal gymnastic career for as long as I can.
Many of my competitors have been doing gymnastics for over ten years. I am only 16 so I have a lot more exciting competing years ahead of me. When I am older I would also like to be a gymnastic coach. I do some coaching already, it is great to teach someone something. When they achieve it, there is a great satisfaction. I have lots of future plans that I know are happening.
I had one of the rarest reactions in the UK having had transverse myelitis, people shouldn’t
worry about it happening to them. I would also say don’t dwell on having anaphylaxis. I am allergic to 20 things which could kill me but I never complain and never talk about it. There is so much in life to enjoy.
Obviously in my life I have boundaries, I can not go to certain places but I just get over it.
I am grateful for the things I can do so I make the most of it.
I advise other sufferers to always take their medication when they are told to. And get help if you need it. It could save your life.
Holly Banks, 16, Southampton
As told to Faith Thomas
Transverse myelitis> the FACTS
WHAT? A rare neurological condition involving inflammation of the spinal cord. An estimated 300 new cases per year in the UK. Age at onset of this condition can be from infancy to older adult. The peak ages for a TM diagnosis appear to be 10-19 and 30-39 years. Males and females seem to be equally diagnosed.
SYMPTOMS: Patients suffer from weakness and numbness of the limbs as well as motor, sensory, and sphincter deficits. Severe back pain may occur in some patients at the onset of the disease. In some cases, there is almost total paralysis and sensory loss below the level of the lesion.
TREATMENT: Corticosteroid drugs are typically used as a treatment for spinal cord inflammation with TM patients. Rehabilitation, especially physiotherapy, is essential.
INFO visit www.myelitis.org.uk
Anaphylactic shock> the FACTS
WHAT? A severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction.
SYMPTOMS: Common signs include: a red, raised skin rash, swelling of the face hands and feet, wheezing, feeling faint or dizzy and vomiting.
TREATMENT: If you suspect somebody is experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 999 immediately for an ambulance and tell the operator you think the person has anaphylaxis.
INFO visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anaphylaxis