Spinal Column by Melanie Reid of The Times

Published on: Author: David Clark 5 Comments
Melanie Reid

Melanie Reid is an enormously respected  journalist who writes a much-followed piece in The Times every Saturday. ‘Spinal column’ is her weekly set of reflections on life and the wider world – seen from the perspective of a person who is now tetrapelgic following a riding accident. Imagine then, the pleasure of reading her brilliant piece for Saturday 14 March in which she not only addresses the subject of death, but at the same time praises our study of Global Interventions at the end of life and the ideas for a Care Campus that we are trying to develop at Dumfries.

It’s humbling being referred to by Melanie Reid as a ‘new hero’, though my eldest daughter told me she’d always known it! Melanie’s thoughts have resonated with a large number of people who have already visited this blog, left comments and also sent emails of support and encouragement for our work. We thank them all.

We are also extremely grateful to The Times and to Melanie Reid for allowing us to reproduce the article here. Just click on the image below and it becomes fully legible. The article can also be found online at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article4377865.ece



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This article, by Melanie Reid, appeared on Saturday, March 14, in her award-winning weekly Spinal Column, in The Times Magazine. Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010.


David Clark

5 Responses to Spinal Column by Melanie Reid of The Times Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. melanie Reid directed me to Prof Clark’s web-site on End of Life Studies. As a lifelong disabled person and now retired academic, I wanted to congratulate him and the Wellcome Trust for their innovative work . I am not planning on dying just yet but wholeheartedly believe in the work being done here. If it is possible to receive updates on work/research in progress I would like to be included in your mailing list. I live in East Cheshire.

    • Hello again Gill, following your comment we have added an option to subscribe to our blog via email.
      If you’d like to enter your email address in the box on the homepage, you’ll receive a notification each time we add a new post.
      Kind regards,

  2. Re Terminal Sedation
    As a nurse from the last 1960s, we, and relatives’ families, were thankful for the compassionate intervention of senior medical staff, to allow people who were clearly approaching death, and who expressed that wish, to do so with ease and dignity.

  3. Hello Melanie
    Ive been meaning to write to you for some time now as I am a regualr reader of you Spinal Column.

    My friend, a very keen horse rider has just broken her wrist falling off a horse. I am really sorry to read of your accident. I also fractured my spine at the same time going through an horrendous divorce in 2004 where I had lost my children and was about to lose my home too. I fell from a ladder and hit the floor from about ten feet. I found out that my father had also broken his back while serving in the RAF and the plane with an American crew crashed killing all but my father and his friend. He had two fractures of the spine but within 6 months he was back in the RAF.

    One of the most frightening experiences was that now I was an invalid. The ambulance arrived with blue flashing lights and four paramedics put a neck brace and a helmet on me and strapped me to a spine board. One minute I was looking at a beautiful blue sky the next the ceiling of an ambulance. As I didn’t feel much pain I thought it cant be to serious but shock can do amazing things. In the hospital I was put on a trolley in a corridor. For two hours people would walk past me and I felt I was in the middle of the high street. Eventually six nurses surrounded me with a female doctor who put here fingers down my spine and said I was OK. Nothing wrong with me. By magic they disappeared so I got off the trolley and walked out. By the time I had driven home the pain had increased but still bearable. I went back to the house I had been cleaning the windows and knocked on the door to be faced by the owner who looked as though he was seeing a ghost. He informed me that he had done the same thing as a builder falling from the first floor but onto an old disused mattress and was able to walk away unharmed.

    I had also lost the 70% use of my right arm. As an artist and a musician this was a nightmare. Two days later I received a telephone call from a very polite doctor asking me to come to the hospital as they need to do further checks. The further checks resulted in me being informed that I had a fractured spine in the lumbar region. I underwent physio on my arm which at first did not work but after six months it did. This was mainly due to being threatened that if it didn’t work two hefty fellows d me down while they injected silicon into my joint.

    My divorce went through and I secured a mortgage. Within a year I had found a very beautiful Swiss wife and I moved to Switzerland renting my house out. Though I was very much in love my in-aptitude of not being able to satisfy my wife due to my injury resulted in another divorce and the loss of my house in Derby due to the tenant not wanting to pay the rent. This resulted in me coming back to the UK absolutely penniless and living in a small bedsit shared with 4 Chinese students and being told that the house was nicknamed `The House of Horrors’ due to its extensive use of the Ouija board. Thankfully nothing happened. My world had collapsed. As I looked out of the dirty window of the bedsit that hadn’t been cleaned since the 70s at the jet stream across a beautiful blue sky I thought of beautiful Switzerland that I had now lost.

    Eventually my house in Derby was sold and the little money I had enabled me to take a CELTA course which led to a teaching position in Barcelona. I came back to Derby UK with little money and hopes crushed of getting back to the country I loved. A Latvian woman was kind enough to put me up in her room in a shared house of Eastern Europeans in which I was the flavor of the month as they now had free English lessons.

    I now live in a small apartment in Derby with most of my time composing music and painting in oils. Thank fully I was able to avoid a wheelchair.

    If I fracture my spine again I was told I would be paralyzed.

    I am also a transgender woman and have been living as such for 5 years. Being only 5 feet six inches tall I wasn’t much of a catch for females and I looked very feminine. So I understand where you are coming from as not being attractive to the opposite sex. I do like men as well as women.

    Please have a listen to my music and songs. This is one of them.



    Hugs and Kisses

    Rachel Phillips x

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