Providing bespoke care nationwide for clients with spinal injuries and neurological conditions
After working for TCC for over 6 years and being aware of our clients’ experiences; not in a hundred years did I think I would have experience in my own family of a spinal cord injury. Yet in March this year my youngest son (age 30) was travelling home from work at 9.15pm in the heavy snow, travelling at 10 miles per hour due to the drifts on the road, when his car slid sideways and his front wheel went down a ditch. He got out of his car and tried to rock the car back and forth hoping to push it out himself and continue home. However; as he rocked the car, he then spread his arms and pushed, feeling something snap in his neck. He called the AA out and eventually got towed out of the ditch at 1.15am, after which he drove home.
He continued for 4 days doing his usual things of working and enjoying time with the family. By the 4th day his neck ached and shoulders hurt but he thought nothing of it. He went to bed on the Monday night and when he woke up the next day his legs felt dead. He thought he had laid funnily on them, and tried to get out of bed and fell on the floor. He dragged himself to the landing and shouted his dad. An ambulance was called but because he was conscious, despite not being able to feel anything from his chest down, the ambulance did not arrive for 6 hours. The fire brigade were called to help lift him downstairs as he is a 6 foot gentle giant, and 6 men had to lift him.
He was taken to a local hospital where he stayed for 3 nights with no neck brace although they had done an xray and then a CT scan which showed damage to his vertebrae. Alex was transferred to LRI Hospital in the middle of the night and had a 6 hour operation to remove a disc at level C5. He then was ventilated in intensive care for 6 days where he was in a critical condition. Thankfully he was strong and continued to progress, he was taken off the ventilator and was then moved to the Spinal Ward. During this time he suffered a blood clot in his lung, a chest infection then Pneumonia, several urine infections and a grade 3 pressure sore which took months to clear up. We seemed to go from one problem to the next; but all through it Alex coped incredibly well and the staff at LRI were brilliant and had a great rapport with Alex. I started a diary recording everything that happened during his stay and took photos every day, so that when Alex had bad days and felt he was not getting anywhere I could show him previous photos and how he had made great improvement. As he had been on bed rest Alex had been unable to have a shave or hair cut or shower, just having bed baths. A very kind Nurse came in on her day off to shave and give Alex a haircut the day before he was due to transfer to Stoke Mandeville. Wow did he look different.
On May 30th he was transferred to Stoke Mandeville hospital to start his rehabilitation. He started having physio at first in his bed, and I was with him when he was first hoisted into a wheelchair. How emotional that was; Alex and I were in tears, with happiness that he was at last out of bed but reality also hit us that life would be very different for Alex from now on.
Alex now has physio every day, hydrotherapy (which he loves) once a week, occupational therapies and wheelchair skills. His upper arm strength has greatly improved and everyone is amazed at how well he has come on. He was told he would not be able to transfer initially, but with determination he has now amazed staff and can transfer from bed to wheelchair, and from wheelchair into a car.
The support that the Physios, O.Ts, Psychologists, Doctors and Nurses have given has been amazing. Alex can now wheel himself around the hospital, and he has some use of his hands, although with dexterity issues. He still has no feeling from his chest down and it is unlikely that will change. But in his own words; life goes on but just in a different way. He has now completed his rehab.
Alex had already gone through life challenges before his accident, and following 10 years of extreme mental illness had been attending college to train as a Mental Health Counsellor He had started working for MIND and was so happy, he felt his life had just started to turn round when this tragedy struck. However his training was put to good use and he has helped other people on his ward by talking to them and helping them cope with the challenges they all face. He is always thinking of others and I am very proud of him.
We have taken Alex out a few times in The Barbara bus, which was quite emotional for him after being in hospital for 8 months. He had forgotten there is an outside world, having been in a protected bubble in hospital. Each trip was a challenge and exhausting for him but worth it to see his face when he tucked into a mixed grill for the first time, his words were “decent food at last! When can we come again?”
Alex has had a few dramas whilst in hospital, one being doing wheelchair skills trying to get up a kerb he fell backwards and landed on top of his physio breaking 3 of her fingers, but only shaking himself up. Another time we had ordered a wheelchair friendly taxi and when it arrived the driver put 2 ramps onto the side frame of the taxi and whilst pushing Alex up the ramps one fell off – luckily his Dad was there to stop him from falling. He will now only order a taxi if it has a lift ramp at the back for him to get in. Then one day he was being hoisted out his bed when the bar holding him snapped off from the main hoist frame causing him to fall to the floor. Luckily again he was not badly injured.
Following these experiences, I have realised even more so how hard it is for the families of Spinal Injured patients as well. As well as the emotional impact there is also the travelling involved to get to see their loved ones, and how expensive it can be having to stay at local hotels and the transport costs of getting to and from the hospital.
Whilst Alex has been in Stoke Mandeville we have watched the progress of the construction of the new garden area, which was opened by Mary Berry in September. The gardens are beautiful and a lovely place for patients to relax with friends and family. Have a look for yourself at www.horatiosgarden.org.uk.
We hope that Alex will get home before Christmas and are waiting for his care package to be put in place. He has had funds turned down by the CCG and has been passed to Social services. We are in the process of appealing the CCG decision. As many of you will know; these processes are not quick and are very stressful for the patient involved. We seem to be fighting all the time to get the help Alex needs/deserves.
All of the family are looking forward to Alex getting home and spending Christmas all together. I know it is going to be a huge adjustment for him going home after 9 months in hospital; but with all our support and his ability to adjust to situations he will do well. He is looking to going back to work next year and do the job he loves and excels in. I know he is 30 and a grown man but he is and always will be my little boy.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year
Fiona Howe – Recruitment Administrator