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Health and safety at work

publication date: Apr 25, 2007
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A Leamington letting agency office worker who found herself in a wheelchair less than two weeks before Christmas has cautioned anyone who sits behind a desk to make sure they get up and move around frequently.

Christine Wheeldon, 47, who works in the management centre of Accord Sales & Lettings in Tachbrook Park, Warwick, had no symptoms before getting up from her seat in pain on December 13.

“The company is very health and safety conscious. All the furniture and equipment such as filing cabinets and photocopiers are positioned away from desks so we have to walk to them, but I had been guilty of sitting behind my desk for too long, and taking my breaks while at my desk.” she said.

“When I stood up I felt numb and had pins and needles, but they didn’t go. By the next morning one of my legs was numb so I went to Warwick Hospital. They advised me to see my GP if I was no better after a couple of days. By the next evening both my legs were numb, I was in a wheelchair, unable to drive and terrified I was going to be paralysed for life.”

Christine’s GP sent her for an MRI scan – suspecting a tumour – and Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry kept her in overnight for observation – but it turned out the problem was that a combination of bad posture while seated and inactivity had compressed her spine, wasted her back muscles and affected the nerve endings.

Prescribed drugs have enabled Christine to walk again and the pain has gone, but she is still numb and now has to walk every lunchtime, do exercises with hand weights and swim in order to strengthen her back muscles. Time will tell if her nerves repair themselves and the numbness goes.

It was the most scary thing and I’m still not back to normal almost a month on.” said Christine. “It can happen to anyone. Accord has bought lumbar supports and foot rests for all of us to improve our posture and I can now work again, but I would urge every office worker to take health and safety guidelines seriously, ensure they don’t spend too long behind their desk and make sure they leave the office for their lunch hour.”