A man who was left with severe mobility issues after a spinal injury is making strong progress through specialist rehabilitation.
Justin Urquhart sustained degeneration injuries to his neck and lower spine that subsequently developed into an infection in 2020.
In addition to cervical spinal stenosis, an area in the neck where the space around the spinal cord becomes narrowed and puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, Justin also experienced discitis in the two lowest vertebrae of his lumbar spine (L4 and L5).
The inflammation between the intervertebral discs led to the bacterial infection that caused 59-year-old Justin’s loss of mobility.
After being taken to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, where he received immediate medical attention, Justin was admitted to Askham Rehab in December to begin his rehabilitation recovery.
This involved being assessed by the multidisciplinary teams – clinical psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, before SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) goals were set to aid his recovery.
“When Justin came to us, he was very limited in what he could do,” says Sara Neaves, clinical lead and outpatients service manager at Askham Rehab.
“He spent a lot of time in bed due to fatigue and muscle atrophy. The lack of strength in his four limbs required us to think outside the box in terms of what we could do with his therapy.
“Justin also had a sensory deficit, being unaware of light touch and proprioception.”
To combat these challenges, Justin’s therapy had a specific focus on regaining muscle strength and range of movement through the use of Askham Rehab’s hydrotherapy pool and state-of-the-art robotic suite.
In particular, Justin made use of Tyromotion’s PABLO, a sensor-based device for unilateral and bilateral training, which focused on building movement and coordination in his upper limbs.
Although still undergoing rehabilitation at Askham Rehab, Justin’s progress has significantly improved during his treatment, with the former personal assistant now being able to weight-bear transfer and take steps with assistance.
“Justin’s attitude to therapy and rehabilitation has been incredible. He’s always motivated,” Sara continues.
“Being fiercely independent before his injury, he has really challenged himself in every therapy session and as a result, is now able to weight-bear transfer, be safer on his feet, and aware of where his legs are.
“The improvements have been really encouraging. While there is still a long way to go, we’re confident that there are still sufficient gains to be made.
“One of his long-term goals was to be able to take steps again. This has been achieved much quicker than we originally expected, and we believe this is due to the advanced technological facilities we have here at Askham Rehab, and the approach we implement towards rehabilitation.
“We’re excited for him to fulfil his ultimate goal of going home and being independent.”
A keen music enthusiast, particularly of Shirley Bassey, Justin has been “blown away” by his experience at Askham Rehab, hailing the Cambridgeshire family-run neuro rehab community as a “very special place”.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Askham. Whether it’s been the carers, the nurses or the maintenance staff, everyone has been just fabulous,” he says.
“The whole concept of Askham Rehab has been second-to-none. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to start motivating myself to get my limbs moving again.
“Suddenly, the brain started to wake up and kicked me into action and that was when I found myself beginning to think that I wasn’t completely useless. I quickly began to feel so much better. My nerves, muscles and body were beginning to move and that’s all thanks to the wonderful therapy team.”
“Overall, I feel I’ve accomplished a great number of my goals that I originally didn’t think were accomplishable.”
Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, director at Askham, adds: “With 10 years of neurological rehabilitation expertise, we’re able to offer a quantitative and targeted approach to treatment, as well as greater discretion when targeting key areas following neurological events.
“Justin’s journey encompasses what Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day is all about; highlighting the strategies to improve the quality of life for persons living with spinal injuries and their families.”
For more information on Askham Rehab, visit https://askhamrehab.com/.
Groundbreaking neurorehab centre opens today
A groundbreaking neurorehabilitation centre is today opening its doors, bringing a new dimension to brain injury rehabilitation in the UK.
Calvert Reconnections, the UK’s first intensive acquired brain injury (ABI) rehabilitation centre which offers a unique approach to rehab for its residents, is now open after having to previously delay plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The centre, on the outskirts of Keswick in the Lake District, offers the first residential programme of its kind, combining traditional clinical therapies with physical activity in the outdoors.
“The opening of our new centre is the culmination of years of meticulous planning by the Lake District Calvert Trust. It is a landmark moment for the ABI rehab market and for us,” said Giles Mounsey-Heysham, chairman of the Lake District Calvert Trust (LDCT) trustees.
“Working with leading clinicians and academics, our new rehabilitation centre will provide a groundbreaking, world-class rehabilitation programme tailored to support individuals in their recovery.”
Calvert Reconnections will actively seek to incorporate a wide range of outdoor activities into each participant’s rehabilitation programme, depending on their unique needs and interests.
This may range from reflective activities such as fishing, bird watching or a nature walk, to higher adventure activities such as horse riding, canoeing, rock-climbing and abseiling – all closely assessed and graded to a person’s interests and functional abilities.
It is launching its new service with three confirmed participants and a strong pipeline of referrals, having seen significant interest from across the country since announcing its creation.
“After many challenges along the way, not least the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thrilled to open Calvert Reconnections. We are hugely excited about what the future holds,” says centre director, Sean Day.
Rob White, activity lead at Calvert Reconnections, explains how the use of outdoor activities makes the new service unique.
“At Reconnections, participants are involved in every aspect of the activities they undertake,” he says.
“They complete meaningful tasks, from concept to completion, in a real-world setting. Extensive research shows that outdoor activities can help individuals in their recovery from brain injury.”
Meanwhile, Calvert Reconnections’ long-established sister organisation Calvert Lakes is also reopening its doors today to people with a range of disabilities, from mild to profound, for much-needed holidays in the beautiful Lake District.
“Reopening Calvert Lakes is a welcome return to business as usual. We are so pleased to be able to welcome our visitors back,” says Sean.
Father-and-son bond supports RAF veteran’s recovery
A Royal Air Force veteran who sustained a significant brain injury and overcame “testing hurdles” on the road to recovery is now making strong progress with the unwavering support of his son.
Herbert Martin, an 85-year-old from Littleport, near Ely, sustained a brain injury following a fall in October 2020 and went on to make a remarkable recovery – highlighting the rapid progression specialist rehab therapy can offer.
A former RAF serviceman of 12 years, which included deployments to Cyprus, Australia, Pakistan and Singapore, Herbert was admitted to Askham Rehab on New Year’s Eve 2020 after suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage that caused a bleed between his brain and skull.
The severity of the injury left Herbert extremely fatigued and resulted in muscle weakness that restricted his mobility. His condition upon arrival at Askham was so critical it was initially feared he wouldn’t recover enough to return home and live independently.
However, due to his extraordinary response to treatment from Askham’s multidisciplinary team of therapists, and the inspiring support from his son, Paul, and two grandchildren, Herbert is almost at a stage where he can return home.
Sara Neaves, clinical lead and outpatients service manager at Askham Rehab, says: “When Herbert first came to us, he was incredibly weak. This made any initial progress extremely challenging.
“He was assessed by our teams of clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists, before SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) goals were set to aid his recovery.
“To begin getting Herbert back on his feet, we began to build his strength and stamina up through various therapy exercises and activities, such as baking and cooking. Eventually, he progressed enough to be able to use our hydrotherapy pool where he could benefit from the many qualities of exercising in water.
“In a short space of time, he was then able to push himself further in our state-of-the-art robotic suite, where he used Tyromotion’s MYRO table, a sensor-based surface with interactive applications, to work on his standing balance and weight transference, whilst challenging his upper limb coordination. He also used the OMEGO Plus, a multifunctional chair enabling specific training of functional therapy goals, to build on his range of movement and strength.”
With the initial belief that it was unlikely Herbert would be able to return home and that another setting would be more suitable for him due to the severity of his condition, he surpassed everyone’s expectations during the early stages of his rehabilitation, maintaining an outstanding level of engagement in his therapy sessions.
One key driver for this was the support of his son, who has been motivating him every day throughout his stay at Askham, playing an integral role in his father’s recovery.
Paul’s encouragement enabled Herbert to push himself to perform functional tasks and overcome challenges to slowly regain his independence. Herbert went from standing at a work surface to standing with parallel bars, and finally taking independent steps with a rollator walking frame, which he was determined to achieve.
Sara continues: “Herbert’s main goal is to get back home. To facilitate this, our occupational therapy team completed a home assessment where they have been making adaptations to enable him to be as fully independent as possible.
“Today, he can now mobilise completely independently with a rollator. It was only a few months ago we feared informing his son that he wouldn’t be able to return home, so to see Herbert nearing a point where he can live a completely independent and happy life is nothing short of amazing.
“His remarkable progress is also due to the wonderful relationship he has with his son. The bond they have is really special and has been monumental in Herbert overcoming so many testing hurdles. It’s enabled him to maintain motivation to progress whilst allowing us to establish an effective working relationship with his family, which has allowed us to facilitate Herbert as coherently and effectively as possible.”
Herbert says: “I have a lovely relationship with my son, Paul. Every night we talk to each other without fail and he has been looking after my bungalow during my rehabilitation. The Askham Rehab team have been excellent. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, director at Askham, adds: “Our ethos is all about maintaining a person-centred approach. We put the patient at the core of our practices and empower them with the tools to oversee their journey with us their own way. We’re delighted Herbert has reached a stage where he can almost return home and live independently.”
Day One Trauma Support rolling out nationally
A charity which supports seriously injured people from the earliest stages of their recovery is rolling out its services in new regions following its national launch last month.
Day One Trauma Support offers financial, emotional and legal support to patients and their families, and was originally based at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Its support will now also be offered in the Major Trauma Centre at Aintree University Hospital, with rollout into more of the country’s 27 Major Trauma Centres also planned.
The charity is launching a fundraising drive during July to help raise vital funds for the expansion of its services, with over 100 people committing to each cover 75 miles to raise money – the distance marking the journey between Leeds and Aintree.
Day One’s support ranges from emergency funding for accommodation for families of patients being treated far from home, longer-term funding for mobility equipment, and legal advice with personal injury claims.
The charity helps arrange counselling, welfare benefits and peer support volunteers, who offer a sounding board to patients still coming to terms with their injuries.
Day One has already supported more than 1,000 patients across Yorkshire since its local inception in 2014. Recently granted independent charitable status, Day One can now work beyond Yorkshire.
Among those taking part are 40 medical professionals including surgeons, physiotherapists and nurses, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Aintree Major Trauma Centre, who will cover the distance as two competing relay teams on 31st July along the canal between Leeds and Liverpool.
Also participating is former Day One patient, Gary Brennan, who in 2010 made a remarkable recovery from a motorbike accident in which paramedics initially declared him dead at the scene.
In spite of his long-term injuries, Gary has committed to cover the 75 miles by Segway for the benefit of others like him.
“Before Day One, patients had to figure things out on their own. We weren’t aware of any benefits we may have been entitled to,” says Gary.
“I’ll do everything I can to make sure others going through what I went through have better support and advice as they recover.
“I’m hoping to cover the 75 Miles on a Segway, which isn’t as easy as it sounds – especially not with my spinal osteoporosis arthritis!”
Additionally, more than 20 lawyers and associates from Leigh Day, Sintons and Irwin Mitchell will join forces to raise as much money as possible for the injured patients they work with as members of Day One’s legal panel.
Lucy Nickson, CEO of Day One Trauma Support, says: “We are so grateful to everyone who has taken up the 75 Miles in July challenge to help us provide more trauma support.
“This is a chance for us all to stand together with those recovering from injuries that test their physical limits every day, and push our bodies a little harder to help raise vital funds on their behalf.
“We believe a supported recovery should not come down to luck or post code. With the help of this fundraiser we’re taking a step closer to making that a reality.”
Professor Peter Giannoudis, trauma surgeon at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Day One founder, says: “The 75 miles from Leeds to Aintree is more than distance; it’s about the journey of collaboration, expansion and hope as these two Major Trauma Centres lead the way in mapping out the future care provision for patients recovering from serious traumatic injuries.”
“We’ve seen first-hand how vital the work of Day One is to families whose loved ones are in Leeds Major Trauma Centre, and for whom the support and guidance of the Day One team, during some of the most difficult and traumatic times they have probably ever faced, is absolutely invaluable,” adds Phil Davison, head of general personal injury at Sintons.
“It is simply fantastic news that this is now being expanded into Aintree Major Trauma Centre, for the benefit of patients and families there, too – but their work comes at a cost, and fundraising plays a major role in helping to sustain this.”
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