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Recently I had the honour of accompanying some of the therapists and nursing team from Sheffield’s Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre on a day trip with four of their patients. The mission was to give the patients some respite from the hospital where they had been confined for many months and, as part of their rehabilitation, get them used to being out and about. The unit’s Occupational Therapist (OT) had designed the day to meet patient goals of social reintegration, sensory stimulation (different sights, smells, tastes) and adapting to a new body image and chose the splendid Weston Park Museum as the venue for the outing.
The first two patients arrived by mini-bus along with a team of two physios and two student physios. Both R and A were wheelchair-bound following high lesion spinal cord injuries. The museum was very noisy - there were several primary school parties visiting - and, as the weather was so nice, we decided to head outside into the park grounds. We were joined by R’s wife who obviously had mixed feelings about the trip. She was pleased that R was having a day out but was extremely jittery about the incline of the paths, the wheelchair, the fact that R‘s arm kept slipping from the arm rest and so on. R’s position would change in the chair as we waked round so the physios would occasionally have to manoeuvre him back into position.
I got speaking to R’s wife and she told me about his accident in their home, how he had fallen over in the living-room and cracked his head on the side of their Wii games console. She was upstairs at the time and on coming down, to find out why it was so quiet, found him laid out on the floor. Hearing her story I fully appreciated why she was so concerned about the walk round the park
We headed for our pub lunch at The Dam House where we met up with two other patients W and J who, like the others, had high lesion injuries but were both fully ventilated, in other words relied on mechanical apparatus to breathe. They were accompanied by another physio, the Centre’s OT and a nurse. It was J’s first time away from the hospital and she was understandably anxious about the trip. It was a very hot day and despite the air conditioning she was hot and flustered
There were a number of highlights to the day: when A, who hadn’t said much till now, started singing and whistling along to Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay playing on the pub’s juke-box'; when W took a sip of his pint of Stella Artois his euphoria was a joy to behold; but most of all it was the dedication of the team from the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre that inspired me. They were cheerful, professional and devoted to ensuring that their patients were safe, well looked after and had a good time! I look forward to helping out on another trip some time in the near future.