‘I could have died that day’ - Attleborough mother backs our mobile phone campaign

The damage to Chrissie Venables' Suzuki Vitara (right) and the Vauxhall Corsa which hit it (left). T

The damage to Chrissie Venables' Suzuki Vitara (right) and the Vauxhall Corsa which hit it (left). The driver of the Corsa was on her mobile phone shortly before the crash. - Credit: Archant

A mother who suffered life-changing injuries when a driver who had been on her phone smashed into her today tells for the first time of her long path to recovery.

A red card to texting whilst driving by referee Peter Venables, and PC Charlie Savage of the Serious

A red card to texting whilst driving by referee Peter Venables, and PC Charlie Savage of the Serious Collision Investigation Team. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Chrissie Venables had to learn to walk again after the crash and wants her story to be a warning to motorists of the devastating impact using a phone at the wheel can have.

The EDP launched its Hands Off campaign on Monday to discourage mobile phone drivers – and to name motorists who are taken to court for using phones.

Mrs Venables was driving on the B1077 Attleborough Road at Great Ellingham, on her way to pick up her daughter from school, when a dark Vauxhall Corsa pulled out from behind an oncoming van.

'I had just come past Aldecarr Hall,' she said. 'I could see a Sprinter van coming towards me and then all of a sudden another car came from nowhere and I don't remember anything after that.'

Almost three years later, the 49-year-old is still recovering from her injuries but has come a long away from the near-fatal crash.

The driver of the Corsa, Lisa Cooper, was sent to a young offenders institution for 15 months and was given a two-year driving ban in 2014.

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Cooper, who was 20 and lived at Henry Ward Road, Harleston, at the time of her court case, had been texting a minute before the crash and it prompted police to warn about the dangers of using phones at the wheel.

But Mrs Venables fears the message is still not getting through to drivers.

'There are so many people who do it and it can alter somebody's life,' she said. 'I could've died that day. If only they realised what my family has been through, what I've been through.

'My daughter was 13 when it happened and she saw me lying there in critical care.'

The mother-of-two was cut out of her Suzuki Vitara and flown by East Anglian Air Ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital, near Cambridge on the afternoon of the crash on October 18, 2013. She woke up that evening in hospital.

'I could vaguely remember being in a crash,' she said. 'The first face I saw was a policeman and he had to breathalyse me.'

Both her legs were badly damaged. Her left knee-cap was smashed. Her left thigh bone was broken. Her right foot was also broken, along with her thigh.

Both her legs are now full of metal bars and screws from operations.

Two weeks after the crash, Mrs Venables left hospital but had to spend four months at home on Snowdrop Drive in Attleborough unable to move.

'I could only sit, not stand or anything,' she said. 'I just had to sit there watching TV.'

Unable to walk, she lived on the ground floor of her house, sleeping in the conservatory. She kept her spirits up with visits from friends, who came round to feed her lunch every day, while her two teenage children and husband, Peter, looked after her the rest of the time.

'Even though it was quite a struggle, I'm quite a bubbly person so it could've been a lot worse,' she said. 'I knew it would be about three to five years in terms of getting back to work.'

In January 2014, doctors gave her the all-clear to try to stand up.

'It shocked me how quickly my muscles had gone,' she said 'There was nothing there. I would make a few little steps but I was worried about the pain.'

In June 2014 she had another operation on her left knee which set her back.

'It was a slow process,' she said.

Mrs Venables used a walking frame around the house and her husband then bought her a mobility scooter so she could start going into town again. She said leaving the house again for the first time was emotional.

'You take what you do with your legs for granted until something like that happens,' she said.

Before the crash, she used to go to the gym and cycled. She still can't bend her left knee to kneel or squat and after short stints of work she needs to sit down and rest.

In the winter her joints also become cold and stiff.

But three years on, she has been able to do some activities again and 18 months ago she started driving again.

She now works 12 hours a week as a home helper and she has returned to the gym and takes part in spinning classes. She can now also cycle 10 miles. 'I didn't want this situation to alter my life completely,' Mrs Venables said. There are certain things I can't do but I just adapt around it.'

• Has a mobile phone driver affected your life? Email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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