A thrillseeker was wheelchair-bound for four months and had to learn to walk again after tombstoning from a 50ft bridge into a river on a hot day and ‘bursting’ her spine.
Libby Sinden, from Preston, was out with friends at Devil’s Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale last July when the group decided to jump from the monument into the River Lune to cool down. The 22-year-old stripped down to swimwear before ‘nervously’ peering down into the murky depths before taking the plunge – but described the impact as ‘like hitting a brick wall’.
In the clip, Libby can be seen jumping into the water before appearing to struggle to swim and crying out ‘I hurt my back’. Healthcare sector worker Libby managed to drag herself to the edge of the water, then lay in pain for three and a half hours as the fire service, an ambulance and mountain rescue scrambled to the scene.
She was then rushed to Preston Royal Hospital for a major six-hour operation on her spine. Now Libby is warning others that jumping off bridges and cliffs into water could ‘change their entire life’ – and is begging others not to do it.
Libby said: “I was one of the lucky ones not to be paralysed and have any rocks underneath. A lot of people jump off the bridge often. I watched quite a few people jump off it, including kids, and they were absolutely fine.
I’d seen two people before jump in but I know over the years, hundreds or even thousands have done it. As I stood on the wall, I felt a bit of adrenaline mixed with nervousness.
“As soon as I jumped, I felt fear before I hit the water [when] I realised how high it was. It was about 50ft high. I decided to give it a go but I was just unlucky.
“The way I hit the water, it was still rather than moving, so it was almost like hitting a brick wall. It caused my spine to have a burst fracture, which led to getting three fire rescue teams, an ambulance, mountain rescue and then being air evacuated to Preston Royal Hospital.
“My message to other people is that it can happen to anyone at any time and that a small decision can change your entire life. Don’t do it. Everyone makes mistakes and I want to raise awareness.”
Libby underwent emergency surgery on her back, leaving her with metal rods and titanium screws in her spine to fuse it back together. She then stayed in hospital for a week before spending four months wheelchair bound and having to learn to walk again.
Libby said: “I only hit the water [and not any rocks] but once I came back up, I felt like I’d winded myself. I wasn’t aware of the severity at first.
“With the way the spine burst, part of the bone went into my spinal canal and it put some pressure on one of my kidneys. I was very, very close to paralysing or killing myself.
“The firefighters had to put up a platform to get me out. I was in the water for three and a half hours before they managed to get me out.
“I waited in the water. I managed to swim from one side to the other holding my back – I think it was the adrenaline. I got to the shallower bit and waited there.
“I couldn’t get out of the water until they had a way of getting me out because of a spinal injury. They eventually got me out using the platform and I got put in the air ambulance.
“I was freezing. I think I had hypothermia afterwards.
“Once I got to hospital, I was rushed in for emergency surgery. I had three metal rods and six screws made of titanium to fuse my spine and put it back together.
“It was a six-and-a-half-hour surgery. I was in hospital for a week and in a wheelchair for three or four months.
“I had to learn to walk again and adapt the way I do everything. I’ve had physio and still under that now, I’ll be in physio for quite a while.
“From the accident to getting walking again, it was about four months. I can’t bend fully, that part of my spine doesn’t move very well.
“I have to move my whole body when turning to look at someone. I was a very active person before but I’m still not allowed to run or do things that are highly active.”
Now almost a year on since the accident, Libby is still hoping to get back running and claims her dog Sahara has been one of her main motivations for getting better Libby said: “I’m a year on now, I still feel pain but I was able to walk again and through determination.
“I’ve managed to get back to doing a lot of things I could before though I’m limited. My friends have been incredibly supportive, I couldn’t get through it without my friends and family.
“I live with my dog Sahara, a rescue dog from Portugal, she’s helped incredible amounts during my recovery as well. I take her out walking and that’s been my main motivation – to get back to walking and playing with her.”