“One of the biggest things that I hope I have shown my friends and my family is that life can literally change in a split second.”
“And people need to stop, just thinking, it will be fine because the one day that it is not fine, will be the only day that you wish you had done something about it.”
Those are the words of 27-year-old Samantha Kinghorn, a Scottish para-athlete, a world champion wheelchair racer, and a farm accident survivor.
Her life changed forever in December 2010, after an accident on her family farm, being crushed by snow and ice, led to her breaking her back.
She can “still remember the day like it was yesterday,” as she recalls in a video, released this week by Yellow Wellies, as part of the 2023 Farm Safety Week.
As she explains: “My best friend had got snowed in at my house, and there was more snow than I had ever seen in my life before.”
“We had 8-10 ft drifts on the farm; my father was really struggling, and animals were dying.”
“It was really horrible. So, I went outside, with my best friend in tow, to help my dad. The dogs had run out of dog food, so we walked down to the shed to get more.”
“As I was coming back up the road, my dad was driving a forklift. And then for some reason, still to this day, I have no idea why, I decided to do this, but I jumped onto part of the forklift, just underneath the main arm.”
“He started to lower the beam down on top of me. I remember feeling an immense amount of pressure on the top of my spine and then it just popping.”
She says she remembers before she felt any pain, she experienced guilt because she “was so lucky to be brought up in a household with both parents loving what they do”.
“I see my dad going out to do a stressful job, a full-time job all year around, all the time, through the night and day and above all else, he loves me more than that.”
“And I could have just ruined them two things for him in a split second. You are going to die, and your dad is going to have to deal with the loss of his daughter and will he ever want to farm again.”
“It was a horrible feeling and then I remember that my head was pretty much in my thighs. I was crushed down to such a small little space and had pins and needles running up and down my leg.”
Machinery has no mercy for human life
All her muscles were spasming and relaxing individually and then they all “seized up and stopped”.
“That was the last time that I felt my legs. I had nobody to blame but myself. I was taught from being such a young girl that machinery has no mercy for human life. That you do not touch it or go near it, but I did.”
“I think the worst moment for me of the whole event was my mum and dad walking in and my mum just screaming: ‘My baby, my baby, I am so sorry’.”
“And my dad could not even look at me and I think I knew that he was finding it harder than me.”
While she was hospitalised, she was selected to go to the spinal unit games, which take place every year in April.
She tried every sport, and on the last day, a nurse recommended trying athletics.
She continues: “I remember laughing in her face, being like ‘I cannot run so I do not understand what you are expecting me to do here’. “
“I remember going down to the track and seeing a girl in a racing chair for the first time. Honestly, I was just speechless and that does not happen very often for me at all.”
“I remember watching this girl going around. By that time, I was 15-years-old, and being cool was probably the most important thing to me and I was like ‘That is cool, so that is what I am going to do’.”
“I remember phoning my mum and dad and being like ‘Guys, do not worry because I am going to be an athlete’.”
Her father’s motto was always, when Samantha and her brother were growing up, that life can be very short, but life can be very long, so why would you spend any of that time doing something that you do not enjoy?
She said she watched her father go out and do something that he enjoys and still enjoys doing every single day.
“I think if someone had walked in that night of my accident and told that 14-year-old girl that in 12 years’ time, she was going to be an MBE, be a double-world champion, have five world medals and two paralympic medals, she would have laughed in your face.”
“I love what I do as I get to travel the world and meet incredible people and I push my body every single day.”
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