Highlands & Islands

Stephanie Inglis: Scottish judo star returns home to Highlands

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Media captionJudo star Stephanie Inglis returns to Highland home

Having been given a 1% chance of survival following a motorcycle accident in Vietnam, Scottish judo star Stephanie Inglis is returning home to the Highlands.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist, 27, has vowed to return to her sport, just 79 days after suffering grave injuries including fracturing her neck in two places.

"I've been told the goal is always to get back into your normal way of life and judo for me was normal - I've done it since I was four," Inglis explained.

"To not be able to do judo wouldn't be my normal life."

Image copyright Stacey Inglis
Image caption Stephanie Inglis won silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

The accident on 11 May also left Stephanie with a serious head injury, infections including pneumonia and septicaemia, deep vein thrombosis, and a tracheotomy which meant she was unable to talk to her family.

"(Leaving hospital) is just the start of my journey, there's still a long way to go," she said.

"I'll be continuing my rehab every day and doing my physio which I'll carry on until I'm back to the way I was.

"After this year I'll start looking to get back into the sport and doing some training, just get my fitness back. But for now I'm going back up to Inverness.

"I'll help at my dad's judo club, help coach so at least I'm in and around it as I do miss it."

Specialist treatment

Inglis arrived back in Scotland six weeks ago and was treated at Edinburgh's Western General Hospital before moving to a specialist unit in Fife.

"My first memory was waking up in the Edinburgh hospital and thinking 'what's going on, what's happened?'

"Luckily my mum and dad where there and explained to me that I'd been in a motorbike accident and a little of what had happened - that was probably the scariest thing hearing all this stuff that went wrong and me not having a clue it was going on.

"And the second thing was realising I had had all my hair cut off for my brain operation, that was a bit shocking."

Image caption Stephanie's physical recovery is said to be progressing well

But Stephanie believes, thanks to the care she has received, her recovery is progressing well and she continues to feel stronger.

"My physio is helping me improve every day, I'm feeling much more confident on my feet plus I have an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist, so I think my speech is back to normal."

The first thing on her mind once she is home in Daviot is getting a good night's sleep.

"Nothing beats your own bed. I haven't had a good night's sleep since coming back home so that's what I'm looking forward to," she said.

Image copyright Stacey Inglis
Image caption Stephanie Inglis has done judo since the age of four

While the judoka does not remember the accident, or being flown to Bangkok for treatment, she does recognise that the generosity of those who donated to the crowdfunding campaign - raising more than £327,000 - helped save her life.

"It's huge, I can't even get my head around all of the supporters and all the people who donated - there's such lovely people in this world.

"And I feel so lucky to be part of the big judo family. They all just pulled together and I have to thank my good friend Khalid Gehlan for setting (the fund) up.

"It's massive and I just can't believe so many people came together for me.

"I'm forever grateful because if it wasn't for them I might not have had the money to get home and who knows, I might not have been sitting here talking to you today."

Image copyright Stacey Inglis
Image caption The Vietnam teaching trip was Stephanie's first venture outside of her sport

Insurance problem

For her parents, Robert and Alison Inglis, it has been a long, fraught summer since arriving in Vietnam to find their daughter in an ambulance having been refused treatment because of a clause in her insurance policy.

"I never ever thought that I would be sitting here on this day getting ready to go home," said Alison Inglis. "I thought at one stage that would never happen and it's here much, much quicker than I think anybody expected.

"I'm sitting thinking how ill she was, but it's a faded memory - did it really happen, did we really go through that?

"I don't think anybody banked on her being as quick or getting as much back as she has as it was pretty serious the injury she sustained.

"Taking her back home is phenomenal."

Image caption Stephanie, right, has been supported by her sister Stacey

The funding campaign not only reached all corners of the UK, but saw people from as far away as Malta, Egypt, Holland, Australia and America give money.

"I don't understand it but I'm ever so grateful," added her mother Alison.

"I think what touched people is that it's every parent's worst nightmare.

"So many of our kids go out and do these things and you think they're safe and protected and all of a sudden you find out they're not.

"If anything I'm hoping that's made a lot of people sit up, check the (insurance) policies and get lawyers involved as we certainly couldn't find the clauses."

'Inspiring' strength

While they are cautiously elated at the progress Stephanie has made, the family admit they have not fully come to terms with everything that has happened since the accident 11 weeks ago.

"I've reflected on some things, and some I get upset about. In the beginning Stephanie didn't need to go through as much as she did and I get angry at that," Alison says.

Her mother admits she is in awe of her daughter, and how positive she has remained throughout.

"I didn't realise she was as strong as she is, she's quite amazing."

The judo star still has a further operation to come this year, but Alison hopes her recovery will soar from there - even if that means the worry of seeing her return to the sport she "lives and breathes".

Inglis is preparing to travel north along with sister Stacey Inglis, who has been by her side since she returned to Scotland, helping her with her recovery.

And there is fighting talk already from her older sibling, whose medal-winning competitive spirit is now clearly shining through.

"Stacey's getting battered on the judo mat when I'm better," joked Stephanie.

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