Mother’s plea for help to fund wheelchair

Karen Tomkins with her daughter Kathryn.
Karen Tomkins with her daughter Kathryn.
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A wheelchair-bound mum with a deteriorating spine condition is appealing for help in a last bid to alleviate her pain and transform her life.

Karen Tompkins’ friends and family members have rallied together over the past year and raised almost £2,300 towards a fund to replace her broken wheelchair.

She only needs just over £600 more to raise the total amount needed, but she’s not sure how much longer she can cope with the pain caused when using her existing wheelchair.

“I spend days unable to do anything and the painkillers, although they combat some of the pain, at times it is too much to bear and I feel as though I am going out of my mind,” explained Karen, 38, who lives in Walsoken with her husband Ben, her full-time carer, and her “miracle baby” daughter Kathryn, 15.

“I hate passing out because of the pain and finding out I was out and about when it happened and other people, friends and strangers alike, witness what happens to me. I get so upset and embarrassed because I can’t control my own body anymore.”

Karen was born with complications to her hip, but it was only as a child that doctors discovered problems with her spine.

She had trouble walking, and although it would hurt at times, she was able to cope with everyday life with the help of crutches and walking sticks.

By the time she was a teenager her right leg had started to give way and in 1998, in a fall at work, she broke her ankle and damaged her right knee.

Two years later she had recovered to the point of using a walking frame, and then fell pregnant with her then partner and faced dealing with the worst news yet.

“The scariest time in my life was not finding out that I would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life, it was when they told me that they thought Kathryn was going to be born with spina bifida,” said Karen, whose brother died from the condition.

“I kept thinking that with my problems and the risk that my midwife had told us we were taking having a child in the first place, I was not supposed to be a mother and I was going to lose her just like my brother.”

Kathryn was finally born in January 2001 with no health problems at all. “She was just perfect, she truly is my miracle baby,” said Karen.

She tried to cope with motherhood as best she could, but it was painful to walk and her legs kept folding underneath her.

She said: “When Kathryn was just six months old, I had a very nasty fall and I knocked myself unconscious. I was the only person in the house with Kathryn and I knew then that something had to be done.

“I had to take my specialists advice and stop trying to do the impossible. So with a very heavy heart and for the safety of my child and myself, I went into a NHS wheelchair.”

Once Karen stopped trying to do what her body was incapable of doing, the pain became much more bearable and life was easier.

At 21 stone, she decided to join the gym at Wisbech’s Hudson Leisure Centre and lost weight, and in 2003 bought her first Otto Bock wheelchair.

Unfortunately Karen and Kathryn’s dad parted in 2006, but a year later she met her husband Ben, whom she said she is “so lucky” to have.

After 13 years in use, Karen’s wheelchair is now broken and been temporarily fixed while fundraising for a new Otto Bock Evo wheelchair got underway.

She said: “We are blessed with so many wonderful friends and family who have helped out in different ways from leg waxes, bric-a-bracs, car boot sales and cake sales.

“I cannot believe how close we have come to getting me a new chair but we are asking for help as I’m not sure how much longer my current one will last.

“It is so uncomfortable that I am really struggling at the moment.

“The new wheelchair will help to alleviate the pressure on my back and hips and, as this chair is made-to-measure, it will be so much more comfortable and safe when I am in it.”

Among those fundraising for Karen include Alison Key and Trevor Dyke who raised £100 towards the wheelchair fund with a sponsored silence.

Anyone wishing to help Karen can contact the Lynn News on 01553 817322.