Policewoman walks her daughter to school again thanks to £100,000 robotic legs.
She was a rising star of the police force, earning six bravery commendations during a decade of dedicated service – until her life was devastated by an horrific car crash that left her paralysed from the chest down.
Nicki Donnelly was racked with despair as she felt her body waste away, but a heartbreaking birthday wish from her five-year-old daughter Eleanor pleading: ‘I just want Mummy to walk again’ renewed her determination to recover.
At the time, it seemed an impossible dream, but now Nicki can walk again thanks to a £100,000 pair of state-of-the-art exoskeleton robotic legs.
‘I feel blessed,’ she said last night. ‘I can stand, walk and even take Eleanor the half mile to school.’
And Eleanor, now ten, said: ‘Watching Mummy standing for the time was amazing. I always believed in her and knew she would walk again and my wish came true. She’s my superhero, my real-life Robocop.’
It has been a long journey for Nicki whose life was shattered by a reckless driver while she was on duty in 2009. Speeding in a 30mph zone, he lost control and careered head-on into Nicki’s police car, which happened to be at the same junction.
The bonnet rammed into her body, smashing her pelvis. Incredibly, she was discharged from hospital on the same day but was told she would need intensive brain and spinal cord rehabilitation. However in 2011, she suffered a delayed spinal cord break, and the creeping paralysis of her lower limbs.
Nicki, from Birmingham, said: ‘I was stuck in hospital and couldn’t move. It was a prison sentence.
‘I could feel my bones slowly crumbling in my body, but there was nothing anyone could do. Emotionally I lost my soul. Being a police officer was my life and when that was taken away from me I found it very hard.
‘I went from being super-fit to literally wasting away. I could so easily have died in the car crash, then I almost died from giving up on life.’
But during her year in hospital, Nicki was given hope by Eleanor. On her fifth birthday she brought a note she had written into hospital. ‘It said she loved me, that she believed in me – and that I’d be able to walk again,’ recalls Nicki, now 34.
‘I asked if she would like a party but she said “No” – her only wish was that I walk again. From that day, whenever things were bad, I’d try to remember what she said and remind myself that I was doing it for her.’
Last April Nicki and her husband – a private man she calls ‘a dream come true’ – received a call from US firm ReWalk, a leading maker of robotic exoskeletons.
She said: ‘I thought it was a cold call and put the phone down. I couldn’t deal with any more heartache or broken dreams, so didn’t want to know. But I looked them up and a week later I was having it fitted.’
The machine – a ReWalk Robotics™ 6.0 Personal System Exo-skeleton – was paid for by the Gerald Ronson Family Foundation, which heard of her plight. The charity was set up by property tycoon Gerald Ronson, 77, the uncle of pop star Mark Ronson.
Experts told her it could take up to two years to master it, but Nicki was walking within seven weeks. And in October she walked two miles during the Great Birmingham Run, crossing the finish line with Eleanor.
Nicki wears a watch that wirelessly puts the legs in ‘sit’, ‘stand’ or ‘walk’ mode. To move, she tilts her body forward, which is detected by the machine which then takes the fist step. Nicki said: ‘When I had it fitted, Eleanor was there and watched me stand. She looked up at me for the first time – instead of looking down at me in my wheelchair – and said “My wish came true, Mummy!” We were both in floods of tears.
‘I have my independence back, a second chance to live again.’
For more on Nicki’s story visit nickidonnelly.co.uk
Source The Daily Mail
Robotic suit helps Nicki to join her daughter on Junior Great Birmingham Run in The Birmingham Mail
Real-life Robocop! Policewoman takes first steps in robotic exoskeleton after being paralysed in horror car crash in Mirror.co.uk