‘Rowing helped rebuild my life’

Carol and Mick Down Downworth
Carol and Mick Down Downworth

A WOMAN who was left fighting for her life with serious head injuries after a horrific car smash has revealed how she has rebuilt her life thanks to rowing.

Carol Downworth, from Hartlepool’s Headland, was driving to work in 2010 when she lost control of her car which collided with a stonewall.

Carol Downworth at Durham ARC

Carol Downworth at Durham ARC

After being airlifted to hospital and placed on a life support machine, Carol’s family were told to fear the worst.

But the mum-of-two, a former pupil at English Martyrs School, has made a remarkable recovery and after taking up rowing she is now set to become a qualified coach to help others.

Former nurse Carol, mum to Harry, 11, and nine-year-old Katie, has no recollection of her accident.

She said: “My husband Mick, who was at home with our two young children, was told by police that I might not survive which must have been terrible.

“In a way it was better for me because I have no recollection of the accident or the aftermath.”

Carol has had several operations to insert metal plates into her head and suffers from headaches, memory loss, has difficulty concentrating and suffers from neuroendocrine dysfunction which effects hormone production by the brain and impacts on mood.

On top of this Carol’s sight has been severely damaged forever and she is registered blind. She was treated at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where she spent 23 years working as a nurse.

She added: “Because I’m a trained nurse I can understand the injuries I had but it feels strange that it was me it happened to as I have no recollection of the events.

“Obviously dealing with this has been hard and I have days when I feel sorry myself but I’m not one of those people who rests on their laurels.

“Besides, I need to be strong for my children and Mick who have all been amazingly supportive and positive.”

Following the accident, Mick - who is an outreach worker for Durham County Council - and Carol started rowing, taking advantage of the Durham Amateur Rowing Club beginners’ courses which are supported by Move into Sport.

Move Into Sport aims to get people active through sport, tailored for those who are either not active enough, overweight or have a family history of cardiovascular disease or at risk from type 2 diabetes.

Carol, 43, said: “I found that I was having to spend a huge amount of time recuperating in the house and I was kicking my heals so as soon as it become safe, about 12 months after the accident, I looked for alternatives.

“Initially I tried running with my husband as this was something I had done before my accident but I didn’t like the feeling without being able to see properly plus the impactive nature of the exercise didn’t fit well with my recuperation from a head injury.”

Carol has become an expert at rowing, and after winning a recent race in the Durham Regatta she is now getting set to train others in the sport.

She said: “From the first time I went on the water I was hooked.

“Because of the nature of rowing I didn’t need to see perfectly as it’s all about feel of the blades through the water and the rhythm of the stroke.

“I would already be a fully qualified coach like my husband if I hadn’t had a fall and broken my arm in January which delayed my progress this year.

“I’ve some vision straight ahead in my left eye so can work with sighted people to help them perfect their technique both in the water and in the gym.”

l For more information about Move into Sport’s rowing scheme, visit www.durham-arc.org.uk or call Durham ARC on (0191) 3866431