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REAL LIVES: I was shot in the head, paralysed, in a wheelchair and 6st overweight ..but now I'm a walking miracle; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: By NATASHA WEALE

NICOLA LUMSDEN'S future could not have looked brighter.

She had just started a new job at a holiday camp and dreamed of travelling the world.

But just two days before her 19th birthday Nicola's dreams lay in tatters, ripped apart by a gunman's bullet.

The teenager was shot in the head, caught in the crossfire as she went for a quiet drink with her best friend, Tammy Diamond, after a trip to the cinema. She left paralysed and in a wheelchair.

Nicola said: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have happened to anyone."

A confrontation involving a gun was taking place outside the pub as Nicola and Tammy were leaving.

A bullet missed its intended victim and hit Nicola as she walked across the car park.

The gunman was later jailed for eight years.

Nicola was taken to hospital where her family were told there was a high chance she wouldn't pull through. At best, she would be in a permanent vegetative state.

Yet 12 years after that tragic night Nicola, now 31, is a walking miracle.

Nicola, who is able to walk with the aid of sticks, said: "I was determined to prove the doctors wrong.

"When I was hit by that bullet, everyone expected the worst but here I am looking and feeling better than ever."

Nicola has no memory of that night friends and family have filled in the blanks for her.

With the bullet still lodged in her skull, her short-term memory greatly affected and her mobility permanently impaired, every day is a constant reminder of the shooting.

She said: "It doesn't happen so much now but in the beginning I was really bitter and angry about what happened.

"I used to think 'Why me?' But I don't think like that any more.

"I've just got to get on with things and make the most of my life."

It has taken Nicola years to get to where she is now and she admits it has been a long, hard struggle.

After the shooting, she was unable to walk, talk or feed herself. The only part of her body she could move was her left arm.

She was moved to a rehabilitation centre where she had to learn the most basic skills again with the help of a speech therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and psychologist.

Nicola said: "I was like just like a baby. I couldn't dress myself, couldn't clean my teeth.

I was helpless."

Only a month after the attack, Nicola was on the road to recovery.

Her first words after learning how to talk again were 'I like my mum'.

Since then, Nicola admits she rarely shuts up.

Her next challenge was learning how to walk.

Nicola said: "That was tough and there were days when I thought I would never walk again. I went from a zimmer frame to a wheelchair to walking sticks.

"My physiotherapist would make me do special exercises for months but I felt such a sense of achievement when I was finally able to stand."

Five months after Nicola arrived at the rehabilitation centre, she was allowed to go home.

Nicola said: "That was when I realised just how much weight I'd put on. Before the accident, I weighed 9st 2lb - now I was 15st."

But Nicola was not surprised the pounds had piled on - for months she had been tucking into pasties, curries, take-a-ways and chocolate.

She said: "I was comfort eating to try to make myself feel better.

"Food had become my crutch. Then I got to a size 22 and the one thing that was supposed to make me happy made me miserable."

While Nicola's weight rocketed, her confidence plummeted. She would wear the baggiest clothes she could find and constantly scrutinise her figure.

She said: "Friends and family would tellmethey didn't carewhat shape I was so long as I was here.

"But I hated how I looked and my weight just gave me another thing to worry about."

The crunch came when she saw holiday photographs and it spurred her into action.

Nicola said: "I was horrified when I saw how big I was.

"It came as a real shock and I knew I had to tackle the problem once and for all."

She added: "I had tried to lose weight myself but my mum, Doreen, suggested we go to Scottish Slimmers.

"She needed to lose a few pounds so we decided to go together.

"Because of my accident, I had not been able to go to the gym so I really put my faith in Scottish Slimmers working."

Nicola, who lives in Washington, Tyne and Wear, was not disappointed.

Although she lost only a pound and a half in the first week, it was not long before she was down-sizing her clothes.

"As I lost weight my life began to return to normal," recalls Nicola, "I soon found that being so much lighter made learning to walk again much easier.

"By the time I reached my target weight of 9st 2lb after 18 months, I was able to get out my wheelchair and walk with two sticks.

Since then, Nicola has joined a gym and lost even more weight.

She now weighs just over eight stone and couldn't he happier about her size eight figure.

Nicola said: "It hasn't been easy but this is the best I've felt in years.

"Losing weight has helped with my mobility, my positive outlook and my self-esteem.

"I owe Scottish Slimmers a real debt of gratitude because without them I'd still be overweight, unhappy and in my wheelchair."

'At the beginning I was really bitter and angry but now I have to make the best of my life'

Nicola Lumsden

SUNDAY EMAL

n.weale@sundaymail.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Looking great: Nicola is delighted to have regained her figure after pounds piled on' Weight battle: Nicola was shocked when she saw a holiday snap from turkey, far left, as she did not realise how big she had become. Friends and family, such as Tammy, left, who was with her on the night she was shot, told her not to worry about her size but Nicola's mum Doreen, above, decided they should both join a slimming club to shed the pounds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 15, 2006
Words:1051
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