Alex and Claire Danson: Sporting sisters pushing each other's rehabilitation

Claire Danson during initially recovery from her spinal injury
Claire Danson revealed the extent of her injuries in October

Sporting sisters Alex and Claire Danson are feeding off each other's determination as they plot their respective paths back to competitive sport.

Alex won Olympic hockey gold for Great Britain in 2016 and captained England to the World Cup quarter-final in 2018.

But just weeks later, a seemingly innocuous bump on her head while laughing at a joke her husband told on holiday in Kenya, left her suffering long-term concussion.

The 34-year-old is nearing a full-time return to training, but younger sister Claire is now starting her own recovery from a life-changing accident.

In August, the triathlete was paralysed from her stomach down after colliding with a tractor when riding her bike.

Claire, 30, underwent numerous operations after the accident severed her spinal cord, punctured both lungs, and broke both her wrists and a finger, as well as the head of her humerus and both shoulders.

She was also left her with fractures to all the bones in her neck - including one break - and all of her ribs.

On one of her first days out of hospital, Claire attended a charity cycle ride in Hampshire, organised with the help of Alex's husband - Alex Bennett - to raise funds for her ongoing rehabilitation.

How the Danson sisters are helping each other on road to recovery

'Open to anything in a wheelchair'

But Claire's focus is already on what opportunities may lie ahead having previously planned to turn professional this year in triathlon before her injuries.

"I want to get back into sport, probably Para-triathlon," she told BBC South Today. "But I'm open to trying anything I can do in a wheelchair.

"But on the other side, this injury and being in a wheelchair has slowed me down and allowed me to spend more time seeing my family and friends. So, I see that more in my future too.

"I don't think you ever lose that want to go faster or to try harder or to work harder - that's still in me. It's just at the moment, it's in rehabbing myself well.

"As soon as that happens, it will be on to 'OK, what can I do next?'"

Claire says she has little recollection of the events leading to her accident.

"I remember leaving the house and then going round a corner and seeing the vehicle and then we collided," she said. "I don't remember much after that before waking up in hospital a few days later.

"Realistically, I've been incredibly lucky in my recovery so far. I've had amazing treatment at Southampton General Hospital initially and then I've moved to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury.

"My level of injury is at T9, which is around my belly button. That's where my spinal cord's been severed.

"From below there, I don't have any feeling or sensation, which will mean my legs. But above there I can feel everything, so I have use of my arms."

Alex, meanwhile, knows all about the importance of patience and composure during recovery.

Recovering from head injury has been my biggest challenge - Danson

The freak circumstances of her injury left her experiencing debilitating headaches, light sensitivity and loss of speech.

"Like Claire, one thing we do have in common is we don't want to wait very long," she said. "We want to be ready and up and better and off quite quickly.

"Claire literally kept me going after my accident. I moved back with mum and dad and could hardly get out of bed or do anything some days.

"Claire did everything for me - she would even stay in my bed at night because I would feel so poorly in the evening just to check I was OK."

Alex now hopes to use those experiences to help Claire's ongoing recovery.

"We're very, very close anyway, but this has brought us closer together," she added." I feel so lucky I can be with Claire every day and do whatever I can to try and support her.

"But she's strong, she doesn't need us. She can do it on her own, but we want to be there with her."

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