Published: 16:10, 02 October 2020
| Updated: 16:11, 02 October 2020
A young woman left paralysed from a virus while working abroad has described feeling "overwhelmed" after taking her first assisted steps on a treadmill.
Hayley Bray, 27, from Deal , was left with no movement from her chest down after contracting the ADEM virus - a rare kind of inflammation that affects the brain and spinal cord - last June.
The former nursery worker has no idea if she will ever be able to walk again but is committed to a physiotherapy programme to give her the best chance.
She attends a specialist spinal cord rehabilitation centre called Neurokinex near Gatwick three times a week where they use ground-breaking protocols, such as specialist tools and bespoke exercises, to help clients defy their diagnosis.
Using a specially adapted treadmill linked to a personalised computer programme, Hayley has remarkably been able to put one foot in front of the other for the first time in over a year.
The Locomotor Trainer - the only one outside of the US - suspends her above the treadmill in a harness taking much of her weight while her legs are guided into a walking motion by trainers.
She said: “I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw myself walking for the first time since I fell ill.
“The Locomotor Training aims to wake up my legs and remind my body how to walk. It’s an incredible device and the only one outside the US so I’m very lucky to have access to it.”
The emotional moment was a long time coming as Hayley was due to start with Neurokinex just before the lockdown in March.
She said: “The wait seemed to go on for ever.
“Lockdown started just as I heard I could join Neurokinex on its Step Up Scheme which gives newly injured people six free sessions to get a feel for how the therapy works.
"Having been accepted, I just wanted to get started as soon as possible and felt I was losing valuable time at home when I could have been making progress.
"At the time it was very upsetting but now I’m there, I’m working as hard as I can to make up for lost time.”
Her two-hour sessions are being paid for out of a fundraising account that her family and friends set up when she first fell ill.
The former Dover Grammar School for Girls pupil said: “I really enjoy my therapy and can’t imagine having to reduce or stop it.
“As I’m not able to work currently, I’m reliant on the generosity of family, friends and donors.
"I can’t thank everyone enough for the opportunity they’ve given me.”
Since starting in July, Hayley has been mainly working on her upper body strength and core to help her transfer independently.
Within a few weeks her arms and core were noticeably stronger, she could sit better and transfer more easily.
She proved her increasing ability earlier this month by completing a 10k wheelchair challenge along Deal seafront.
Her trainer Marilla Cameron said: “Hayley is incredibly determined and a hard worker.
“In our sessions we have been targeting strengthening and improving her entire body, not just the functioning parts post illness.
"Everything we do with Hayley is out of her wheelchair and in dynamic weightbearing positions such as kneeling and standing.
"This is aiming to improve her core strength as well as provide stimulating input into her hips and legs.
“The Locomotor Training that Hayley loves is also looking to increase the sensory input into her trunk and legs which comes from the actual stepping motion, from the manual contact of our therapist’s hands on Hayley’s legs and from her foot contacting the floor.
"Combing our therapies at Neurokinex is aiming to allow Hayley’s nervous system to relearn the motor patterns associated with walking.”
Following eight months in hospitals both in Spain where she fell ill and the UK, Hayley is now living independently but relies on carers.
She added: “My next goal is to live independently so I’m not relying on carers coming in twice a day.
“Ultimately I would love to regain much more strength and my dream would be to restore feeling in my legs so I can relearn how to walk.
“No-one really knows if that will be possible but if anyone can help me progress to this level it’s Neurokinex.”
You can support Hayley by making a donation here .