Ms. Namita Nayyar: You as a young girl has been a ballet dancer, swimmer, badminton player and a horse rider. You played badminton for the county and swam competitively. But when you were just 15 years old, you developed disc degenerative disease and spinal stenosis. At 16 years of age you underwent surgery to remove the part of the slipped disc that was pressing on your nerve, in the hope that it would reduce your back pain. However, four years later the pain returned and doctors decided to carry out a more extreme operation to remove the disc entirely. It was after this operation that you woke up unable to feel or move anything in your lower body. With absolute determination you ventured into and took start your career in modelling. Now you are a successful model. Tell us about your journey of utmost determination, grit and that has been an inspiration to others?
Ms. Katie Knowles: It has definitely been a hard and testing journey over the last nine years, especially over the last three years. Losing my ability to take part in my favourite sports was extremely hard and upsetting, truthfully I still had all that energy and want to do them but I was unable to do so. This was when I realised I needed to steer my focus into something I was able to do.
Any sports person would know that stopping exercise that you previously did five times a week to then nothing, would lead to weight gain. In my case four stone. This was the first thing I needed to address. I joined Weight Watchers and by that diet alone lost the four stone in a year. This is how the modelling began, I met a girl at Weight Watchers who was a model and worked with the organisation Models of Diversity. I got involved with them and was lucky enough to walk at the ideal home show in London and other various shoots for clothing companies such as Tags to Love and charities such as Global Makes Some Noise. I am lucky now to be an ambassador for them and promote diversity in the fashion and media industry.
Through this I then got involved in Miss North East GB 2015 pageant and made history as the first UK disabled finalist and then the first disabled finalist to place, I came third for Newcastle. The confidence I have gained through modelling has further shown me I am capable of doing things I did not think I could. As I gained confidence in myself and my ability I began walking the dog more and along with my hydrotherapy at the hospital I began riding at a RDA centre – Pegasus Centre in Tranwell.
I was determined to get back riding, it was probably the sport I missed the most. It may sound stupid, but because I cannot feel my leg and foot very well being on the horse feels like my legs. When I am on a horse I feel “normal” whatever that is, I feel like I am walking not the horse. I love the horse I ride called George he’s just been broken in and is a baby full of beans and its nice I’m helping him and he’s helping me. You have to remember it took me at least six months to learn how to walk again after my last surgery, this is walking with mobility aids and on my own with the bars at rehabilitation in the hospital.
The pain of trying to walk and have any mobility is enough to push me to do anything, if I can deal with that pain I can deal with anything. I don’t know where it came from, but I genuinely woke up one morning and thought ‘Katie you are alive, it could have been worse, come on!’ previous to this I was gaining weight and getting down as I could not get out and about, I was not at work, I was missing university. After that kick up the bum I am over the moon to say I graduated from my law degree this summer at Northumbria and I am looking forward to training to be a solicitor especially now I have a big interest in disability rights.
Even with these big dreams, my rehab and physio of hydrotherapy and horse riding is still extremely important in my recovery. I have taken part in dressage competitions at Tranwell, the last one coming 3rd in my set I was over the moon and I am due to start training for more competitions and regionals with a new suitable horse. I am very stubborn and refuse to give up just because I have a disability. I have an ex paralympian at my stables who is wheelchair bound and she totally inspires me to push my riding further but also anything I want to do.
Ms. Namita Nayyar: You were once modelling on a horse and the horse threw you off backwards – everyone else was concerned about your back but you were more worried about your hair and make up. Tell us about this episode of your courage and professionalism?
Ms. Katie Knowles: I laugh about falling off of the horse at the photoshoot with the fabulous photographer Rebbeca Raistrick because I was genuinely worried about the dress that was thousands of pounds on loan from Curious Heart Ltd! I used to get thrown off of horses all the time when I was younger so I thought nothing of it when I got chucked off. I think I forget sometimes that my spine is fused and I am to avoid impact. I am not saying I am going to go bungee jumping but at the same time I have gotten to the point when I do not want to walk on egg shells.
I am always safe and sensible in what I do and I was checked over at the hospital after this shoot. My consultant told me off a little bit but at the same time understands my passion with riding but also that I should be able to do what other 24 year olds want to do. I love horses and I know it did not do it on purpose, however I wish it had been recorded as I have never seen so many people panic before, cameras flying, trainers running and me panicking about the dress and my makeup. I always try to be professional and I am aware of my limits with some shoots, but I think I am quite brave and at least give it a go.
Ms. Namita Nayyar: After operation you lost feeling in your toes, feet, and thighs. You couldn’t even get out of bed without help – but you amazed medics by ditching the wheelchair and managed to learn to walk all over again after undergoing gruelling physiotherapy. Tell us about this true miracle that happened in your life?
Ms. Katie Knowles: It really is a miracle that I can walk at all, never mind with my Glamsticks. My Glamsticks are fabulous sparkly crutches that “take the dull out of disability” which could not be more true and really did help being positive with recovery and still feeling young even though my condition is an older persons condition. I am lucky to be an ambassador for the company Glamsticks and I am so grateful for all that they have done in helping me regain my mobility physically and mentally.
Waking up and not being able to feel my lower half is just indescribable. I thought my life was over, I was screaming saying they had chopped my legs off I was in a right state. They had to try calm me down as I was getting so hysterical, I was 22 at University, a normal girl and now I faced life very differently. The first time they tried to get me up they were very hopeful. A physic either side trying to get me off the bed, I was crying my eyes out with the pain. Standing up with their help I tried to take a step. I could see my foot in front of me, I was dragging it to put on the floor but I could not feel it. The hospital nick named me ‘bambi’ as I wobbled with a zimmer frame as if I was on ice. I practiced this every day for as much as my body would allow.
I was determined to have mobility even if it was limited. Weeks passed and I was told I could go home if I could manage the stairs. Stairs have never looked so hard. Struggling with Glamsticks and sheer exhaustion using muscles I had never used, I managed and was allowed to go home and continue rehabilitation on a outpatient basis. Through intense physiotherapy at rehabilitation in the hospital I can now walk with my Glamsticks and only have to use wheelchairs and scooters occasionally. Sadly, I have never regained the majority of feeling in my foot and thigh but my other muscles have started to adapt.
I have amazed my surgeons and physiotherapy team who never thought this would be possible. I still cannot believe that I might have never walked again, I am stubborn and do not like to be told I cannot do something. The rehabilitation team have had me involved with helping to inspire other patients who have similar mobility issues, I am happy to help with any age it really doesn’t matter. I just know how it felt when it happened to me, I had everyone around me but at first I felt so alone. if I can help someone not feel that they are alone and there is hope or there are other options and adaptions then I am on board.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.