News and Events

'Feeling a little normal' part 2

View profile for Jon Rees
  • Posted
  • Author

In the second of two blogs Jon Rees about the joint Physiotherapy Project between Brethertons and the National Spinal Injuries Centre Jon describes a recent visit to Stoke Mandeville. 

It was simple: John and Dominic wanted to catch a bus in to Aylesbury, to practice walking on different surfaces, and to experience eating in a restaurant. Physiotherapist, Olivia Skelnar had clearly identified those and after a brief meeting we headed off to the bus stop.

It cannot be understated how pleased John and Dominic were to be heading off in to town. Getting on to the bus was successfully negotiated. Paying the driver was a little trickier; balancing whilst trying to find the money led to the making of a mental note: “remember to have the money ready next time!” The driver who was patient, caring and attentive to John and Dominic’s needs nonetheless threw his bus around curves others might not have noticed; but if you are in a neck brace and need to keep your neck immobilised the journey was one requiring considerable focus. That made for an interesting journey!

Leaving the bus provided further challenges. The driver kindly lowered the deck to help them off. Why hadn’t it been lowered on entering the bus? Another mental note: “next time ask if it can be lowered on boarding.”  

Olivia then put John and Dominic through their paces in the town centre. Despite being out of the hospital, Olivia was crystal clear; this trip was about therapy NOT sight seeing! She led us down slopes and side streets; over cobblestones and kerbstones; on pavements and across roads; alongside busy market stalls and on to quieter streets. For John, she explained, this was like a marathon. As he paused at the end of a long stretch of pavement he said he hadn’t walked as far since he’d been in hospital but he was rightly proud of what he was achieving.

John and Dominic were acutely aware of needing to make allowances for the time it took them to cross the town. For Dominic getting to the pub (no alcohol allowed) was the beginning of another round of challenges. Accessing the loo unassisted (with its several heavy swing doors) was the first issue successfully negotiated.

Choosing food caused much debate and discussion but eating in company was necessarily slower than John and Dominic had remembered. The usual and natural menu choices prompted what he expressed as embarrassment for Dominic who has difficulty with dexterity. Cutting up the food he was so desperate to sample after months of good but repetitive hospital food proved intensely frustrating. ‘What could you do about it?’ asked Olivia.  Bring his adapted cutlery was the answer Dominic hit upon – bigger grips and handles: problem solved.

We said our goodbyes at the end of the meal, moved by how grateful John and Dominic were for the outing trying the new skills acquired through the physiotherapy and other rehabilitation they had been working on. 

Olivia is clearly onto something – perhaps it is a return to the old days where this sort of trip happened all the time; but it doesn’t happen now without people like Olivia and her colleagues. We have already signed up for an outing where Olivia needs helpers who can help her take out a larger group. Something so simple but seemingly something having such a huge and positive impact: we are so pleased to be able to help.

We can’t wait.