Knit and Natter Founded By CES Champion Katie Brown

26th September 2019 - Posted by Catrina

The Venue community centre in Northwich, is holding a new Knit and Natter group hosted by the Big Local. They have held the group at the community centre since October in response to a suggestion by a super-knitter Katie Brown. Together with the Big Local she has built a group of a dozen or so women who arrive at the community centre with their knitting bags ready to knit with Katie’s guidance and also eager to chat and socialise with others in the group.

Three years ago Katie suffered Cauda Equina Syndrome following a car accident. The CES limited her mobility drastically, like it has for so many of us with our condition. Katie doesn’t have feeling in her right leg and suffers with foot drop. She uses a splint and crutches for short distances but needs a wheelchair and scooter to mobilise long distances. But for a long time Katie was left isolated at home suffering with pain. Her life had changed completely.

“One day I was working in my beautiful garden and the next I was learning to walk again…it was so quick” she remarked.

She went on to explain that she lives with daily chronic pain and her “husband gave up work. He’s my carer now,” she added. Katie’s husband sounds amazing as he has built her a summerhouse so she has a dedicated place to knit! How wonderful!

Sadly following the CES Katie was left without bladder and bowel control, needing to self catheterise and use irrigation for her bowels every other day.  After experiencing some “really dark times” she realised that she had to regain some semblance of control in her life. She says she has gained a lot of help from the CESA and our Facebook group, The Samaritans and The Spinal Injuries Association and Minds Elefriends Website.

Her turning point came when her son unexpectedly sent her a book of patterns – “for knitting cats,” she grins – and she spent months concentrating on following the patterns to create her little knitted masterpieces. She realised that she had honed a skill that she could pass on to others.

“I texted Big Local the first time I got in touch, I was too anxious to phone,” Katie remembers.

When they called her back, she explained that she felt “isolated and lonely, and that knitting was really therapeutic for me. I wanted to show other people how to do it, like my grandmother taught me”.

Katie was mindful that she wanted the group to be accessible for all no matter what financial situation they are in. She says the, “Big Local offered me this space and said it would pay for the wool and needles to start us off. It meant anyone could come.” She was overjoyed.

It wasn’t easy at first, the prospect of teaching complete novices how to knit was naturally a daunting prospect and all the while Katie is still dealing with the myriad of issues that CES causes. Despite all that super-Katie persevered and by the third class she had people casting on and knitting scarves! How amazing!

“Already, it’s evident the Knit and Natter group is far more significant to its members, than simply a place to learn how to make a useful item of clothing,” reported one person

Katie has taken her experience of isolation and pain and decided not only to change things for herself, but to do something for others in her area who are experiencing the same issues. She used her knitting skills to bring people in her community ranging from 87 years of age to a toddler of 18 months, together. What an amazing achievement!

Unexpected connections are being made through the group. “It turned out she lives just three doors away from me!” exclaims Katie, pointing at Eve Handy, whose face creases in a smile as her needles click-clack speedily along a row. “How can I never have met her?”

As they are all sat around the table member of the Knit and Natter group,Gill Osborne, is crocheting a blue blanket: “my chemo project” she says quietly. Gill is a teacher who’s been signed off work while she goes through her treatment, she’s felt isolated since being diagnosed, she explains. “With my immune system compromised I’m quite wary of crowded places. I can come here and be creative, and it’s a calm environment: it’s somewhere I feel safe.”

A feeling of relaxed camaraderie pervades the room. Katie makes her way around the tables making sure nobody is stuck. When people were asked what the group means to them one person replied, “It’s not just a group. It’s everything.”

Katie says that developing her Knit and Natter group has, “given me a purpose. If you’re in chronic pain all the time, and sometimes I wake up and I’m screaming! I needed to feel like I had a purpose, and I needed to make some friends.”

We at the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association are so happy to hear Katie’s story. It’s amazing that she has found her outlet of creativity and way of coping with her pain. We are so inspired by her ability to translate that passion into something that has become so important to her community. We recognise that it takes a lot of strength and determination to do what she has done while coping with CES and we applaud her wholeheartedly. 

Why not take a look at Katie’s Facebook page she makes some amazing custom knitted pieces. Her favourite being the knitted faux taxidermy like below:

Here’s more information about Katie’s Knit and Natter Group.

If you have a story you would like to share with us about your life post Cauda Equina compression please get in touch.

Until the next time,

Catrina

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