MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MLB MLB MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL

A crash changed my family forever – now I’m running the London Marathon to raise awareness

It is a touching image of grandmotherly devotion: Elizabeth Panton cradles her new grandson Rollo, the day after his birth in April 2007. Tragically, less than 24 hours later, on her way to visit Rollo and her daughter Victoria by bus in hospital for the second time, a joyous family outing to celebrate new life ended in unbearable tragedy.

As Elizabeth approached the bus depot for the short ride to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, with her other daughter Sarah, and Sarah’s two-year-old daughter Pollyanna, whose hand she was holding, a bus mounted the curb at speed and ploughed into the family.

Sarah recalls a loud bang, like a bomb exploding. Her legs were trapped under the bus and her head smacked against the wall.

Slumped next to her was Elizabeth, who she watched slip away. Meanwhile, the impact had catapulted Pollyanna into the air and her right leg was hanging by a thread. Drifting in and out of consciousness, Sarah watched her tiny daughter trying instinctively to crawl towards her.

When her husband arrived at the hospital Sarah told him: “Christopher, I think Mummy’s dead and Pollyanna’s foot has fallen off.” Four surgeons spent eight hours trying to save Pollyanna’s leg. It was amputated later that day. She had only just learnt how to walk.

Now Pollyanna’s older sister Sapphire, 21 – who was not with her family that day – is running the London Marathon with her journalist father Christopher and brother Barnaby, 23, to raise money for disability equality charity Scope.

“I’m definitely not a runner and I’ve found the training hard and ended up sobbing, so I’m really nervous for the day but I’m determined to raise awareness about the challenges disabled people face,” says Sapphire.

“The crash has really shaped our lives in such a profound way,” she continues, explaining that the family does not refer to the tragedy as “an accident” because there was nothing “accidental” about the bus driver’s actions.

In 2008, he was sentenced to four years in prison for one count of death by dangerous driving and two counts of grievous bodily harm. The court heard that he had become frustrated that he could not enter the depot.

“We are running for Scope because Pollyanna’s disability is such a huge part of her, and our, lives,”continues Sapphire.

“If I didn’t have a disabled sister, I wouldn’t understand the daily struggle and stigmas facing her and I’m quite sick of people being ignorant about people with disabilities.

“Pollyanna is starting university next year and I’m already at university. I never see a disabled person there and when I ask where the lifts are, they are always in weird, non-obvious places.”

She also feels concerned when people leave their bins on the pavement. “I walk out of my uni flat and see broken glass and all I’m thinking is ‘that would puncture the wheels of her wheelchair’, and ‘how is anybody meant to get past these bins?’ I view things in a very different way.”

Pollyanna, 19, had many operations during her childhood which often meant she was unable to wear her prosthetic leg and needed to use a wheelchair. “As a young teenager she said she would rather try and painfully hop around on crutches, because she found when she was in her wheelchair people wouldn’t look down and make eye contact,” says Sapphire.

She recalls Pollyanna, then 11, explaining that children in the school playground had told her no one would want to marry her because she had a missing leg. “I remember thinking as a self-conscious teenage girl I would not have had the same resilience,” she says. Pollyanna is currently on a gap year trip to Australia.

“Learning to navigate the backpacker lifestyle with one leg is not an easy task, but she’s smashing it,” smiles Sapphire, who believes one of the most transformative things we can do for disabled people is give them choice.

Sapphire is inspired by her mother, Sarah Hope, who has spent the 17 years since the crash transforming injury into inspiration.

Sarah won a Pride of Britain award and an MBE for services to child amputees and road crash victims after she discovered there was no budget for amputee children to have running blades – a flexible prosthetic that makes exercise possible – on the NHS.

“Mum lobbied the Government and now there is £1.5million set aside for running blades for children on the NHS,” says Sapphire. Pollyanna’s own blade, which she received when she was seven, enabled her to learn gymnastics and ballet which she adored and at which she excelled.

“Mum lobbied the Government and now there is £1.5million set aside for running blades for children on the NHS,” says Sapphire. Pollyanna’s own blade, which she received when she was seven, enabled her to learn gymnastics and ballet which she adored and at which she excelled.

“She trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance and was the first disabled person to win a place in the English National Youth Ballet and she has performed at London’s Sadler’s Wells.”

I suggest that lobbying for others when your own child’s needs have been met is heroic. “Mum is amazing,” agrees Sapphire.

“When I think about what she went through, watching her mother literally dying in front of her eyes, well she has learnt to bring light out of darkness and improved the lives of so many.

In so doing, Sarah has clearly inspired her wonderful elder daughter to do the same.

Donate to Sapphire’s marathon fundraiser via justgiving.com/fundraising/ sapphire-hope

SOURCE

Leave a Comment