A Carrick girl who suffered devastating injuries in an accident five years ago has spoken of her hopes of pursuing a career in paediatric nursing.
Olivia Bell, 17, is a lower sixth pupil at Carrickfergus College.
A house captain at the school, she is currently studying AS Levels in ICT and Health and Social Care.
Recently, Olivia shared with younger students her journey to recovery after she was knocked down on March 23, 2011.
Olivia, then in year 8, was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.
“I can’t remember anything from that day, just that it changed my life for the next few months,” she said.
“My first memory of hospital was waking up on a ward called Paul Ward. I hadn’t realised that I had been in intensive care for 10 days. I then realised that I had to learn how to walk, write and talk again and that I would be able to do this through physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
“My doctor Claire, physiotherapists Mel and Patricia, and occupational therapists Gretta and Julia helped with my recovery and made my time in hospital easier. It was not too easy though as being in a sick children’s hospital, visiting was very restricted.”
Although the Carrick student has “good memories” of friends visiting and keeping her up to date with school gossip, life on the ward had its challenges. “It was sometimes hard as lot of babies were really sick and a few died, which was really difficult,” Olivia recalled.
“On the ward there were no other children my age, but a little girl called Hope, who was four, was in the bed next to me and would come in and wake me up every morning at 6am!”
Despite the extent of her injuries, Olivia managed to keep up with her studies at the hospital’s school. “After being on a ward with babies crying all night it was a nice place to be,” she said.
The hospital school liaised closely with Carrick College to ensure Olivia stayed on track with her work, while she continued to receive messages and presents from the outside world. “I owe a big note of thanks to all the teachers who came up to visit me, and all my year group who made me an encouragement book which made the nurses cry,” she said.
Being in the children’s hospital did come with some perks, including a meeting with JLS and the chance to take part in a radio broadcast for Children in Need.
In September 2011, Carrickfergus College Principal Hedley Webb organised a reduced timetable for Olivia to come back to school.
At the time, Olivia was still using a wheelchair, but found everyone in her class to be very supportive of her return.
“Due to the help and support from the school, I got my GCSEs and am now back at school studying for my A-levels. I hope to have a career in children’s nursing,” she added.
“[The accident] was a big event in my life, but it has not defined me.”
A spokesperson for the College said: “All the staff would like to emphasise how proud they are of Olivia’s hard work and dedication.”