A WOMAN who has spent more than a year in hospital has had a double dose of good news.

Sophie Shuttleworth has today been named as the winner of the Pride of Gwent Courage Award.

And just weeks after spending her second consecutive birthday stuck in hospital, Sophie has enjoyed a life-changing stroke of luck thanks to some old school friends and an awesome bit of fundraising work.

Sophie, a beautician and illustrator, spent three weeks in an induced coma at Grange University Hospital after being struck by viral meningitis last summer.

South Wales Argus: Pride of Gwent 2023

When she woke up, she found she had lost control of her body below the chest, initially even struggling to move her eyes.

Stuck in an elderly ward at St Woolos Hospital, Sophie, now 32, faced an agonising wait to find a new home despite being bumped up to Newport City Council’s top priority band back in March.

South Wales Argus: Sophie does her mum's eyebrows again

Newport-based La Vida Travel raised £28,000 of charity funds over the last year through a combination of auctions, black-tie events and raffles.

“I thought the money was split between three charities and me, but they have very generously donated £21,000 to me, which is insane," Sophie said.

“I’m so grateful to Karen Marin Reyes, the founder of La Vida Travel, and Natalie, her daughter, Cerys Stagg O’Connell and Emma King who I went to school with. I just couldn’t believe their generosity and the amount of love in that room.

“It was all smiles, and all for fantastic causes.”

South Wales Argus: Sophie at La Vida Travel's black-tie event

The lifechanging funds mean Sophie will be able to continue private rehabilitation, and Newport housing group Pobl have found her a home.

“It’s mine and I’ll be in before Christmas. I’ve had a cry, realising I’ve got what I want. Pobl have truly bent over backwards to help me with my perfect home. I can't thank them enough. I can start living my life again very soon.

“I’m also realising I’m going to live on my own again, and I’ve never been worried about that, but living on your own and not being able to move is a completely different kettle of fish.”

South Wales Argus: Pride of Gwent Awards 2023

La Vida Travel director Karen Marin Reyes said: “We are delighted to donate £21,000 to Sophie and we hope this fundraising inspires other local businesses to support her and her family in the future.

“Sophie deserves this award for her constant positivity and determination she has shown in her everyday life.”

The Pride of Gwent Awards, run by the South Wales Argus, celebrate the achievements of people from across Gwent whose stories we have told over the past year across a range of caretgories.

Sophie has been chosen as the Courage Award winner after demonstrating incredible determination, spirit and resilience in the face of adversity.  

The Pride of Gwent Awards ceremony takes place at Rodney Parade on Thursday, December 7.