Ako Shillitoe, of Leeds, was left fighting for her life after falling 80ft (25 metres) in a climbing accident.
She was on holiday with her family in the S'Estret mountain range in Mallorca in March 2016 when her ‘warm-up route’ went drastically wrong. She was at the top when she took off the rope from her harness and threaded it through an anchor bolt before buckling it back into her harness.
But she missed and fell 80ft to the ground.
She was unconscious by the time she reached the rocky surface. Mountain Rescue teams and medical professionals feared she would not survive the day as her injuries were that serious.
Thankfully, she did.
She woke up in a Spanish hospital, having suffered severe head injuries, a broken left leg, broken spine and shoulders.
Three weeks later - once Ako was deemed strong enough – she was flown to the Major Trauma Centre at Leeds General Infirmary, where she spent the next eight weeks undergoing various surgeries as part of her long recovery.
Ako, aged 46, is sharing her story to mark the Leeds Major Trauma Centre’s 10-year anniversary.
She said: “I don’t remember much of the fall. But when I woke up in hospital I remember being in a lot of pain. I had tunnel vision and lots of metal pins keeping me together.
“For the first year, I struggled even to move. I went through so many frustrations and emotions. I even questioned why I had survived. For someone who loves being outside, I found it really difficult being trapped inside for long periods. I had to keep focused that I would recover and get back to what I love doing.
“I am so grateful to the wonderful staff at Leeds Major Trauma Centre. Their support is why I am here today. I appreciate all of the team, and there are so many of them. My occupational therapists were fantastic. I think my story is pretty amazing to show how the human body can recover. I still have problems with my vision in my right eye, but I am so grateful to be alive. To be with my husband and son.”
Not only did Ako make a remarkable recovery, she went on to complete a triathlon in August 2022 – raising more than £800 for Day One Trauma Support. The charity provides emotional, practical and financial support to patients and families who have suffered catastrophic injuries.
Ako added “Slowly I was able to move a little, and then I managed to walk short distances. It took three years for my leg fracture to heal. Eventually I was able to ride a bike again and then start running. Seven years on and I’ve even got back to climbing.
“While in hospital we were offered support from Day One. It was lovely to know that someone was there to help us. Who cared and could answer our questions. I felt fortunate enough not to need much help, but I get exactly why Day One is important. I can see the difference they make to other people. That’s why I’ve been inspired to fundraise.
“I hope my story will give some hope to others who have experienced life-changing injuries.”