Woman paralyzed in accident wants to show people with disabilities they can volunteer
In her twenties, Charmaine Daoud was an active student, personal trainer, lifeguard and spinning instructor.
But a devastating accident at the age of 21 crippled her from neck to toe, disrupting her life.
She was walking home with her mom, dad and sister in Milton Keynes at a parent’s birthday party in London when the car was struck twice by a drunk driver around 3 a.m. on July 14, 2001.
The accident killed her father and sister, and while Charmaine survived, she spent weeks in a coma after suffering life-changing injuries.
Today, 20 years after the accident, Charmaine volunteers with organizations that have helped her and recognizes that her work has given her back her self-confidence.
In 2005, she began volunteering with the Thames Valley Police, inspired by an officer on leave who was one of the first on the scene after the accident, and later joined the Spinal Injuries Association, as she wanted to help other people who went through a similar injury.
She wants to show that people with disabilities are able to get involved and make a difference.
“I was young when the accident happened and I was so used to being busy. I was in the second year of a sports science license, ”she says.
“I have to thank the SIA and the police for giving me back a purpose in life and getting me back to work.”
After the accident, Charmaine spent five weeks in a coma at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.
While recovering, Charmaine spent seven weeks in intensive care, but her family made the difficult decision not to tell her about the deaths of her father and sister as doctors told them the shock of the news could. kill her.
“I had a tracheostomy and couldn’t speak, but my cousins were lip-reading and could see that I was asking where daddy and Sarah were,” she says.
“Mom must have protected me and said they were in another hospital because the doctors said the shock could kill me. After seven weeks I was well enough to go to a ward and they told me.
In addition to the paralysis, she suffered a major head trauma, which erased her memory of the three weeks before the accident.
Two weeks earlier, she had celebrated her 21st birthday but does not remember it. The last thing she remembers is her parents’ silver wedding on June 19.
She says, “I have a huge void in my life that I don’t know and wish I hadn’t because that was the last time I saw dad and Sarah.”
After three months in the Victor Horsley ward of the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Charmaine transferred to the National Spinal Injuries Center, based at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where she spent a year in rehabilitation.
From there, the 22-year-old was transferred to a nursing home for two and a half years, as building permission to convert the garage at the family home was refused and she was unable to return home.
She eventually found a bungalow which had to be adapted and moved in in April 2005.
In April 2002, the driver pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by reckless driving and was sentenced to two years, but had to serve eight months of that sentence.
Two weeks after the trial, Charmaine and her mother decided to start a petition against the conviction.
Charmaine said: “We thought it was an insult to have my father and sister killed and paralyze me from neck to toe, not to mention the physical, psychological and emotional scars on my mother and myself for the rest. of our lives.
“We collected 10,500 signatures in two weeks. We then made an appointment at 10 Downing Street to deliver our petition.
The driver was again convicted and sentenced to three and a half years, taking into account the time he had already served.
Charmaine’s experience working on the petition made her realize that she wanted to use her time to give back.
After moving into her new bungalow, she began working with the police later that year and had gone to the office almost every week, helping to organize spreadsheets and do paperwork to organize d ‘other volunteers. During the pandemic, she was unable to do the job as it requires her to be at the police station, but she hopes to return later this year.
Seeing how much she loved this role, she also volunteered for the Association of spinal cord injuries Four years ago.
She visits their office in Milton Keynes and helps with the administrative work, as well as their helpline, answers calls and helps other people who call the charity to seek advice on their own experiences with injuries to spine.
“I wanted to give something back. A family member works for the police and he suggested it, ”she said.
“I really enjoyed it, so I also took on the role of the Spinal Injuries Association.
“It keeps me busy and active. I have adaptive hand splints to help me type and I’m slower but I can do it.
“I like the independence of doing this rather than using voice activated software. “
Charmaine has seen many benefits for herself from her volunteer work and encourages other people with disabilities to talk to organizations they wish to support about what they can do to help.
While many might consider volunteering such as working in a charity store or helping out at an animal shelter, Charmaine would like to point out the variety of volunteer activities.
She says: “Volunteering has been so important to me and there are opportunities for people with disabilities to get involved.
“I think it’s important to find something that interests you and find what you can do.
“The lockdown has been really tough and I hope I can resume my volunteer roles soon.”
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Volunteer Week takes place June 1-7 and highlights the amazing ways people can give back and help others. To get involved, click here.
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