Dunstable school worker with painful condition takes on sea challenge

A Dunstable school worker whose life changed forever after a devastating car accident is to set sail on the high seas next month.

Kayaking enthusiast Suzanne Gayford, 46, led an “idyllic” life before March of last year when she was involved in a car collision with a speeding driver.

She suffered broken ribs and a broken foot and was left with complex regional pain syndrome – an extremely painful and debilitating condition. After being registered disabled for almost a year, the mum-of-two is determined to regain her life. She has signed up to a five-day sailing expedition leaving Southampton on May 11.

Suzanne, who before her accident had worked as an inclusion officer at Icknield Lower School for 18 years, said: “I started searching for things I could do in order to accept my disabilities and challenge myself.” And as part of the sponsored challenge, Suzanne will climb the 145ft ship mast unaided.

She added: “Before the accident, that would have been nothing. But everything about my life has changed. I usually walk with sticks or use my wheelchair.”

To prepare herself, Suzanne is now attending a gym twice a week. She said: “Going into a gym again was scary especially facing it in a wheelchair, but I discovered no-one cared. My training has been the one treatment that has worked. It does not reduce my pain, but it focuses me and hopefully will enable me to slow my condition down.”

Not much is known about CRPS. It causes pain receptors to be sent to the brain from the limbs, leaving the sufferer in agony. The illness causes lesions on Suzanne’s legs, leaving her partially wheelchair bound. She has also developed fybromyalgia – another painful condition affecting the central nervous system.

Suzanne, who lives on a boat moored at Stoke Hammond, said: “I read one man’s analogy of CRPS, ‘It’s like being given a terminal illness without the luxury of dying’. This scared me and I knew I couldn’t allow CRPS to control my life.”

To sponsor Suzanne, visit

Before her accident, Suzanne had worked as an inclusion officer at Icknield School in Dunstable for 18 years, and enjoyed kayaking on the canal daily.

She added: “I have no idea what my future holds, but I know it will now be a future that I decide and not my CRPS.”

To sponsor Suzanne, visit