A journey to Hull and back…

Nigel is 38 years old and was impaired after suffering brain damage during the last stages of his University course and graduating from Hull University. He was rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary where he was told by staff that “he actually died five times”..! He was later transferred closer to home at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and then onto Daniel Yorath rehabilitation unit in Leeds where he resided for almost five years. He was rehabilitated and returned to his home area near to Richmond, where he is now living as independently as possible.

A gregarious, charming, challenging young man, who is acutely socially aware, expressing a deep sense of social injustice in support of people with a range of impairments, interspersed with a wicked and cutting sense of humour. I met Nigel a couple of years ago at the office base of Adult Social Care in Richmond. Cara was Nigel’s senior care worker who introduced him to me as he was challenging his direct payment following on from an assessment of need in order to assist with his care in the community. It was during this meeting that Nigel mentioned he would love to re-visit the Royal Infirmary in Hull, to check out the University and view Humber Bridge again. I stored this revealing information for a latter time.

Following on from my retirement from Adult Social Care I became involved in establishing a Centre for Independent Living (CIL) in Richmondshire and Hambleton. Nigel joined the group eighteen months ago and is now a trustee of the board and attends regular monthly meetings. He has shown a significant commitment to the group, taking part in many training courses and he is now a member of the very active social group arranging leisure and cultural activities throughout the area. Recently Nigel received a person centred plan reviewing his needs in the community. He invited a number of his friends to act as a support during his deliberations. As a consequence I suggested “why not do that trip to Hull you mentioned?”.., in order that he could achieve his long standing wish to view his old haunts. He wanted most of all to see the ward at the Royal Infirmary and thank the staff who had looked after him during the very worst period of his life, although it was appreciated that the actual traumatic event was close on fifteen years ago and therefore many of the original staff would not be around.

Gill from Independus, Roy a close friend and myself accompanied Nigel on his quest. He was understandably nervous, carrying two boxes of biscuits as a little belated thank you to repay the nursing staff. Is that “one for them, one for us Nigel?” I greedily asked. He didn’t respond..! Perhaps it was too early in the morning for fun. We travelled without any major delays, arriving at 10am and parked really close to the Infirmary thanks to our thoughtful driver Gill. We had prepared well by pre-contacting the hospital some weeks before and double checking on the day previous, although Sister Lizzie Parker failed to recognise this on meeting us at the ward entrance. We all appreciated that it was a very busy hospital and times messages are not always past on. She welcomed us extremely warmly, particularly Nigel. As ever Nigel was charming commenting on the attractiveness of the nursing staff, who graciously accepted the biscuits and showed him round the ward. Although none of the current staff remembered him the occasion touched him as he reflected back on such a significant event in his earlier life.

We motored on to the nearby University. Nigel commented on all the changes, with the halls of residence now part of the main business school. Nigel also commented upon a noted cosmopolitan increase in the student population. He introduced himself to the busy receptionist on the block, taking in a photo opportunity with her. It seemed a fine place (Nigel did actually return to the Uni shortly after his recovery in order to collect his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Studies and Marketing). After some lunch we travelled on to view the Humber Bridge with yet more memories and more photographs, then we got lost ending up in nearby Pearson Park. Nigel claimed to have broken many a heart in the vicinity.

To round the day off we finally found Tavistock House on the outskirts of the city and met up with Mark from the Choices and Rights disability organisation, which was the group that mentored the Richmond and Hambleton Centre for Independent Living during its first tentative year. We have subsequently developed exceptional links with Choices and Rights, which was extended and resulted in close friendships with each other. Heading back to Richmond Nigel reflected on the day “knackering, rewarding, emotional and in current parlance an opportunity for him to complete closure.” For me… input was an earlier promise to myself kept.