PC Jessica Sowden recovers from spinal surgery to complete inspirational challenge
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Swindon PC Jessica Sowden to take on trek to Everest base camp for The Police Rehabilitation Centre
In 2019 Jessica was left bed-ridden following Sciatic pain in right leg
Her dog and "best friend" Joey will provide extra motivation after he was diagnosed with cancer earlier this month
When PC Jessica Sowden takes her first steps towards Everest base camp next week, it will be the latest in an ever-growing list of challenges she has had to overcome.
Since making the bold decision to take on one of the most difficult mountain assents back in 2018, things have not exactly gone to plan for the Swindon response officer.
The former regional netball player developed sciatic pain in her right leg within weeks was in excruciating pain that left her unable to work and bed-ridden.
In January 2019, she underwent surgery and the road to recovery began, with the help the help of The Police Rehabilitation Centre in Goring – Flint House.
Not even a global pandemic could keep Jessica away from her training, climbing the stairs repeatedly during lockdown to reach the height of Snowdon, to name but one of her inventive ways to not only recover from her surgery but prepare for her trip to the Himalayas, which she had not given up on.
“It was really disheartening,” said Jessica of when she first got diagnosed and had to cancel her first trip.
“I had just got into a place where I felt I was in a really good head space, really motivated for the future and what I wanted to do.
PC Jessica Sowden
“I was a fit, active person. So, from being active and being a frontline officer, I went to being sat on a sofa or led down in bed for the best part of six months.
“It was really demoralising, really hard to be alone as well and in pain constantly – it was just horrible and it took quite a lot to come back from.”
In her role as a response officer, Jessica has to deal with some of the toughest jobs.
However, it was her role that provided her with the skills to return to being on the frontline and she hopes that by reaching base camp, she will show others what can be achieved.
“I didn’t want my injury be the be-all and end-all. I’ve sadly seen too many people, especially in the police, where they lose something,” added Jessica, who is also a family liaison officer, so helps families through bereavement and trauma.
“I wanted to show that you can have an injury, you can overcome it and not only can you overcome it, you can exceed your own and other people’s expectations.
“I have not wanted to impress anyone, I have wanted to inspire people to see if I can do it, they can do it as well.
“I deal with a lot of people who go through really traumatic events in their life, and I think when you see that, some of the things aren’t as significant when you think you have got problems.
“I think that’s helped, that resilient side of me and the role and I am grateful for the opportunities that I have.”
PC Jessica Sowden in training
On Saturday, she will be flying into Nepal before her assent to base camp begins, aiming to reach her goal on March 29.
However, it’s not only the assent that is the tricky part, Lukla Airport, in Nepal, is known as one of the world’s most dangerous, but that isn’t putting Jessica off.
“Genuinely, I cannot wait to fly into Lukla,” she explained.
“I absolutely love flying and I cannot wait for that flight, it will be a highlight, and I am also looking forward to seeing the religious elements and emerging myself in the culture and the people.
“I have seen so many photos and I don’t think I can comprehend the landscape I’m going to see.”
Jessica will also be taking on the expedition with added drive and motivation.
Earlier this month, her nine-year-old Golden Retriever, Joey, was diagnosed with cancer.
Jessica with her dog Joey
Having been a rock through her illness and rehabilitation, Jessica is more determined than ever to complete her goal before getting back to show Joey the attention he provided her during her toughest times.
“It has been heart-wrenching,” she said.
“There is never a good time to hear that news, there is also possibly the worst timing to hear that news before setting off on a massive challenge like this.
“One of my friends said that I am constantly being tested and my ability to bounce back.
“He was the reason I got out of bed most days. When I was really struggling with the pain, I was taking medication every two or three hours, 24 hours a day, for months on end.
“But that little soul needed feeding twice a day, he needed to go out to the toilet, he needed to go out for a walk. He was so patient with me, I want to get this done, celebrate getting this massive achievement done, and then come back and be there for him.
“I have laminated photos of him, which I am taking, so he will be with me the whole way.”
Jessica has used the challenge to raise money for The Police Rehabilitation Centre, Flint House, who assisted her with both physical and mental health support during her return from surgery, along with many police officers before her and since.
It is not only a charity that is close to her heart for that reason, this month, she was named an ambassador on International Women’s Day.
“It is such an honour,” she said, having already smashed her £5,000 fundraising target.
“I am really passionate about Flint House and that police officers sign up.
“The services they offer, from the facilities to the staff, are absolutely phenomenal.”
Jessica has gathered a lot of support through her training from family and friends and even the star of the Netflix show 14 Peaks - Nimsdai Purja.
She has also been supported by the Wiltshire Police Federation, who are incredibly proud of her efforts.
Chair Phil Matthews said: “I am so very proud to support Jess’ mission to give something back to those that helped her.
“I have read her story and been lucky enough to talk to her in person. She has a wonderfully positive attitude and shows a side of our police officers that is inspirational.
“I wish her luck in her trek and congratulate her on becoming the ambassador for the charity she is collecting for. I will be following her story closely while she completes the trek.”
To find out more about Jessica’s journey and to donate visit her Just Giving page http://www.justgiving.com/JessicasJourneyToBaseCamp. You can also look back through her training and keep up to date with her trip by following her on Instagram @Jessicas_journey_to_basecamp.