InterviewRylee Foster hopeful of full recovery after life-changing car accident
Liverpool FC Women goalkeeper Rylee Foster has shared a positive update on the serious neck injuries she suffered in a road traffic accident last October.
The 23-year-old also spoke of the huge emotional and physical impact of the incident, which was caused by adverse weather conditions as she was visiting friends in Finland during an international break.
In recent weeks fans have seen a smiling Foster attending LFC Women’s games at Prenton Park to support her teammates wearing a special halo device to keep her neck immobilised.
And she has revealed how the halo has given her hope that she could even be back playing football in 12 months – a situation she describes as a ‘miracle’.
Travelling as a backseat passenger, Foster was thrown from the vehicle as it rolled in the crash while travelling towards Helsinki. She suffered several injuries but by far the most serious were seven fractures to her neck.
“It was the international break and I took the time for the first time in my life to go and visit some friends and kind of unwind a bit and reset before the season kicked on,” Foster recalled to Liverpoolfc.com.
“Within 24 hours of being there, the car accident happened and everything kind of went downhill.
“My memory of that part is pretty much gone but I know I was ejected through the windscreen and a three-day trip in Finland ended up being an entire week in the hospital.
“I had seven fractures to my neck and I was told that to go home my fractures needed to be stable. They put me in a hard collar at that moment. They knew the fractures were pretty bad but thought they would be OK within three months’ time. I’d be able to recover and get back to normality.”
After returning to the UK, a crucial moment in her recovery came when Foster shared her scans with club doctor Amelia Woodhouse, who then consulted with specialists at the Walton Centre in Liverpool, a world-renowned base for neurology and neurosurgery.
“I’d given Dr Amelia, the team doctor, my CDs which had all my imaging on there,” continued Foster.
“It was then, when they were able to upload all the imaging on to their system, they gave me a call on a Wednesday morning when I was at breakfast with my family to rush over to the hospital as soon as possible.
“They told me if I don’t get the halo application done that day I would risk severe injury and paralysis because my bones were actually separating apart further.
“The halo would essentially completely immobilise my neck to 98 per cent. It’s screwed into the four locations in my head, two at the front and two at the back. It transfers all the weight to the chest plate and to the poles so I don’t have any on my neck.”
The stark reality of her new situation left the Canadian with some tough mental challenges to come to terms with very quickly.
“You almost think your world is over in a way. And I know I was very fortunate to come out of the accident alive,” she said.
“But it’s almost like everything you worked hard for is being pulled away from you. I can’t change what’s happened in the past, what I can do is get myself better with the best quality of life I can.
“The first two weeks was really challenging for me, probably the darkest moments of my life. But I honestly can’t say I lived in a dark state for too long.”
With even the everyday practicalities of sleeping, dressing and washing difficult, Foster has been indebted to her sister Mackie, three years her junior, who left Canada to come to Liverpool to help look after her sibling.
Sharing her sister’s positive attitude, Mackie said the situation has actually helped them come even closer together.
“If it wasn’t for this situation I wouldn’t be able to see sides of Rylee which I’ve never experienced before,” Mackie stated.
“She moved out of home at the very young age of 17 to go to school in the States and to play, so it’s been really amazing to get to know Rylee, to get to see her being vulnerable and not being so independent because she’s always had to be independent.
“I’m so grateful – unfortunately! – to be able to help Rylee and help her live as normal a life as she’d have been able to live before.”
After several months in the halo, a recent scan delivered some crucial news about the progress of Foster’s recovery which has given huge hope and positivity for the future.
Her fractures are successfully knitting together naturally and it is hoped there will be no need for surgery that would have likely signalled the end of her career.
She noted: “I was told that I would never play again, I would never really have a quality life again. And I found out the other day that my bones are almost fully fused and they’re going to be removing the halo device on March 1.
“From there I can start the rehab process. There’s going to be a lot of rehabilitation needed to get back to just a normal, quality active lifestyle.
“When I told Matt [Beard] the other day that I could make a full recovery he made me make one promise and that was to be patient with the process and that’s just what I want to do.
“It’s just about enjoying the moment and taking every step at a time. I’m going to be at every game possible, I just want to be there at every game to support the girls as long as I can.
“So I’ll be at every game - and in a few weeks without a cage on my head so it’s exciting!”
While a long road lies ahead, Foster is grateful for the opportunity of a normal life and is keen to thank everyone who has helped her progress to this point.
“There’s so many people that have supported me and they deserve to understand and be along with me for the journey. Teammates coming to visit especially when it was really fresh, everyone was there. Without their support this wouldn’t have been easy.
“The way the club medical team have handled this - Amelia has just taken this in her stride. She’s just a great bubble to have, someone to bounce ideas off and have conversations with and share concerns with.
“There’s this honest transparency because she’s a doctor but also because she’s just a really good person to talk to.
“The physio staff, Hina [Chauhan] and Chris [Underwood], have been so supportive and I know they’re already planning ahead and I’m so thankful.
“And the fans, Liverpool fans alone are just the best fan group I’ve ever been a part of.
“The messages I receive, I can’t reply to every one, but just to see that and hearing my name chanted in the stands after games - that support goes a long way.
“I want nothing more than to bring them through this, so I’m really thankful for everyone’s support.”
Watch our Rylee Foster interview in full