Getting back on my feet…

Vane Hill Resident, Chris Allen, shares personal story about “getting back on my feet”

After 6 months spent as a resident between Treliske and Penzance hospitals; in which I endured alcohol related seizures, a heart attack and a broken ankle, accompanied by ongoing PTSD. I was lying in bed enjoying my morning cup of tea when news that I had been waiting to hear for a long time came;

“Someone from a care home in Torquay is coming to see you regarding a placement for a period of rehabilitation”.

That day quickly arrived and very soon after the initial assessment, my belongings were being packed. Then the next morning I would be picked up by the care home manager (Steve) to be moved from Cornwall to Torquay.
That night I did not sleep well; full of reservations, unanswered questions and trepidation. I was a nervous wreck when Steve came to pick me up. I struggled to his car with the aid of my walking frame, whilst being secretly excited about my move. Excited because I can finally make some real progress with my health; after feeling that I had hit a brick wall recently, health wise, both physically and mentally.

We stopped at Saltash services for some food, which I was dreading, not the food but the movement to and from the car. As I anticipated, the walk back to the car, in pouring rain and gale force winds, finally reassured Steve that he wished he had never met me! “The patience of a Saint” is an understatement and the fact that I didn’t fall was a miracle! Especially as I was still recovering from a broken ankle, suffering from severe anxiety and had not been outside for 6 months. Finally strapped in the car, the final “leg” of our journey was about to commence. My passport was stamped at the Tamar Bridge and Vane Hill here we come!

Welcome to Vane Hill

Pulling up outside Vane Hill Care Home was one of the most scary times of my life. Waiting to meet the other residents; I would say it easily equals situations in the military, including my service in Iraq!
One of my biggest concerns was, not what I would think of them, but what would they think of me?

Initially I used a wheelchair, which for a former hugely active person, put a real dampener on my own confidence and self-esteem. It also certainly ruined any first impression that I hoped I would be able to make. However, it didn’t take me long to realise, as we shared our stories, that every resident had their own problems; some worse than others.

Whilst i was young, I received a very good education and followed that with a further “education of life” in the military. I also gained some experience in life counselling. I would often find myself listening rather than transmitting, which I feel assisted my integration with the residents and the staff. All of whom, with their support would help me in my own rehabilitation.

Getting back on my feet…

My mobility, slowly, improved, both indoors and outdoors. With the persistence of Steve, despite many falls, one of which ended up with another hospital visit and stitches in my head. However my determination was still there.

With the support of management, staff and to some limited extent, a recognised physiotherapist. I eventually made the complete transition from wheelchair to walking frame, which gave me a tremendous confidence boost! Although still enduring the occasional fall and the trauma associated with it.
Then came the ‘real’ challenge! Having mastered the walking frame,  I gained the confidence to get rid of it. Relying on it every day, inside and outside, to going to the toilet in the middle of the night; my frame was my crutch to rely on. However due to my own embarrassment that went with using it and from a stubborn and once proud man, it had to go!

The physiotherapist, due to funding issues was withdrawn, so Steve and the staff had to take on the unenviable task of guiding, supporting, and picking me up; whilst I persevered with this simple task. Harder for some than others and I can assure you I found it extremely hard. I don’t think that anyone, unless they have been in this situation themselves, can even imagine what having support and words of encouragement available actually means.

Knowing that, at times, I have not been the ideal recipient of help, due to my own stubbornness and pride, the work by the staff, and in particular Steve, at Vane Hill have by far exceeded their Job Descriptions. The show professionalism, patience and the essential sense of humour!

Whilst not perfect, my immense improvement in mobility and confidence has given the tools to move to my ultimate goal. To fulfill my dream of living independently and close to my family. Then, who knows, maybe to return to work. If anyone would have me!!??

Chris Allen-getting back on my feet

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