'A freak accident hanging up laundry left me in a wheelchair and plunged us into debt'

Kirklees couple David and Alison Smith
-Credit: (Image: Samuel Port)

A Kirklees family’s lives were thrown into disarray when breadwinner dad David suffered a ‘freak accident’ while hanging up laundry.

Alison and David Smith, both 50, from Emley, in Denby Dale, parents of three children, spoke of how their lives were turned into turmoil when David pulled a muscle in his neck while doing the household chore. The injury ultimately put David into a wheelchair, after his brain went into a panicked overdrive, causing an extreme neurological condition.

On top of that, the couple were overwhelmed with bills on their house and their cars after ex-mechanical productions engineer David became ill and eventually was made redundant, plunging them into thousands of pounds worth of debt.

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“It just became unmanageable,” said David, speaking about the incident at an event for Christians Against Poverty, a charity that helps people become debt free.

“I was hanging laundry on a washing line. I was doing that and pulled a muscle in my neck. It was a freak accident. I was worried it may be a stroke and all those worries compounded into the brain, making it wonder what’s wrong with it."

David and Alison were put into serious debt following the accident -Credit:Samuel Port

Alison added: “At the time he was under a lot of stress with his mum being ill and that is what prevented the brain from recognising his body could get better. It’s very unusual. He woke up one morning and he couldn’t move, it was very, very scary.

“Now, you don’t know how it is going to be day to day. He can get up and have a good day or he can’t get up the next day so it’s totally and utterly unpredictable, the illness.”

The initial accident happened 14 years ago but the impact they still feel today. Doctors weren’t able to figure out what was wrong with David for four years. It turns out he has a functional neurological disorder (FMD), creating problems with how his brain sends signals to the rest of his body, which makes him very unsteady on his feet and unable to move some days.

Alison, who spends most of her time caring for their daughter who has severe autism, said: “We went from a full-time wage, to nothing, really. We had horrendous problems, I’d got that with our daughter, with David and our son was only about three.”

After many years, the couple’s lives are now debt free. In part due to the help of charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP). CAP provides debt help case management to struggling people, with 2,367 clients across the UK. It recently published a report, with 505 respondents, that found 1 in 7 skipped meals and 2 in 10 went without heating their home daily. Almost 3 in 5 borrowed money to pay for food, clothing and other living costs.

It also found almost 3 in 5 of new clients in debt had income below the poverty line. And sixty percent of survey respondents had to borrow money to pay household bills.

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