Rich was admitted to hospital with multiple illnesses. When in an induced coma, he suffered nerve damage and was completely paralysed when he woke up, able only to move his eyes.
Our latest series of blogs highlights the real-life stories of people with acquired disabilities. Rich has shown extraordinary grit and determination as he’s worked on his recovery and he tells us how he’s made a new life, with support from Livability in Hereford.
When did you arrive at Livability Wall Street, Rich, and how were you feeling?
It was the end of January this year, after two years in various hospitals and rehab. It was a bit of a shock to the system to be back in the big wide world again, but very exciting at the same time. I was able to move into the independent living flat on the first floor of the Wall Street service. During my time in rehab, I’d learned to walk again, so from Wall Street, I could access the gym and local amenities, with the town centre just around the corner. The biggest issue for me was my balance, which is part of the brain injury I had. And my balance still leaves a lot to be desired. My speech is still a bit impaired, although it’s a lot, lot better than it was, and my north-east accent has come back!
How do Livability staff support you?
They’re all great here and they’ve helped me settle back into normal life. They’re worth a million bucks. I’m partially sighted so I struggle to read small print, so they help me with correspondence and appointments. They also help me with cleaning, to check I’ve done it ok. Sometimes they take me shopping but I like to try and do that mostly on my own. I’ve got a little magnifying glass I take with me – I need to read the ingredients because I’m allergic to nuts.
How about emotional and wellbeing support?
They help me massively. My dad has got cancer and he’s undergoing treatment at the moment, and there’s always someone to talk to here.
Are you surprised by how far you’ve come?
That’s the understatement of the year! At one point, I thought this day would never, never, ever come. In a strange way, one of the best things the doctors did for me was giving me my prognosis which was that I’d never move again, I’d never walk again, you’ll need 24-hour support for the rest of your life, blah blah blah. But I thought ‘you watch!’ So I tried to get myself out of that situation. It’s been hard work but I’ve had a lot of input as well.
What did your friends and family think when you moved into Wall Street?
Well, we had a celebration. I don’t drink these days but I popped over and had a lemonade in the pub. They were quite impressed because they were like me – they never thought this day would come. I split up with my fiancé of 20 years when I was in hospital but I have a lot of friends in Hereford. I’ve got a good support system there and I see them regularly.
What are you still dealing with, healthwise?
I’ve accepted that I’m partially sighted now but I try to not let it affect me in the least way it can, you know. I just try to get on with everyday life and take whatever’s thrown at me.
Did you have times when you struggled emotionally?
Big time. Initially when I woke up from the coma, I used to mix up dreams with reality and couldn’t work out what was real and what wasn’t. For instance, I thought for ages that I had a horse tied up at the back of the hospital! It took months of conversation with my dad and others to realise what was true and what was not. It was very frightening and I was very confused and very upset.
What are you most grateful for, Rich?