From service user to volunteer
"Four years ago in November 2016 I had a subarachnoid haemorrhage – a type of stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. I was at work at the time - I work as a community nursery nurse and I had been doing health and developmental reviews in baby clinics in the morning. I was sitting in the car fortunately when a passer-by saw me and noticed I was looking unwell. They called an ambulance which took me to Kingston hospital where I had a CT scan. My mum had actually passed away from a brain haemorrhage in 2000, so I was blue lighted to St. George’s hospital where they operated the next day and I was sedated for three days afterwards.
This was all completely out of the blue for me. I’d done 4 or 5 health reviews in the morning with lots of paperwork and my handwriting was completely legible, so it was obviously a spontaneous bleed. I don't remember very much about it. I was in St. Georges for two weeks and then St Helier for a few weeks. When I was discharged on New Years Day they stopped my anti-epileptic medicine which ended up putting me back in hospital. I could have gone to another rehab centre but luckily they agreed funding for me to go to QEF for neuro rehabilitation which I will forever be grateful for.
I had a very bad memory. When I got to there and they said ‘hello’ I just kept saying 'I was going home on Friday and going back to work on Monday'. But I couldn’t remember where I lived, worked or conversations I had had. I must have walked around the building 100 times on my first day asking the same questions over and over – I was a bit of a handful!
When I was at QEF I had physiotherapy as my balance wasn’t great, speech and language therapy, psychology and lots of occupational therapy. I remember cooking a curry that I took home at the weekend, but it was too spicy for anyone to eat! The psychology team worked with me on my memory, and whilst I can’t remember much of it, I do remember them asking me to use a white board to write down the names of everyone in my family and doing something called a zoo map test where you have go round it one way.
I was an inpatient at QEF for 12 weeks and then was lucky enough to continue as an outpatient for another 10 weeks. Alena was my keyworker the whole time. QEF helped me to secure work experience in a play group, which helped me prepare to go back to work and their Mobility Services team also assessed me to check I was safe to drive again, which I passed with flying colours.
After almost exactly a year I was trying to get back to work and QEF continued to support me even then. I needed to have an interview with Occupational Health to assess whether I was OK to return to work. I asked Alena to come with me and even though she was only there as my guest, they saw her as a support worker and denied my return to work request. She wrote a letter to clarify what support I actually needed and the second time I went back with my partner instead. They did a memory test where they told me something at the start of the interview that I had to remember at the end, and I passed.
QEF asked me if I would like to volunteer in their neuro rehabilitation service - the same service that had helped me; talking to clients, playing games and joining conversation groups etc. This service has recently moved to the new Care and Rehabilitation Centre just outside Leatherhead and it’s a lovely building. I’m volunteering with the Speech and Language team – so I am still working with Alena which is great. I help clients with breakfast, play games and read with people and encourage them to talk. Some of these sessions with Alena are timetabled therapy activities.
I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and I love it - I love working with the clients and the staff. It helps me to give something back as I wouldn’t be driving or working the way I am without QEF. I actually passed my minibus driving assessment with QEF just before lockdown in March, so now I drive a mini bus for QEF too.
I don’t think I would have got out of other rehab centres what I have got from QEF. They have seen me at my best and my worst – everyone there, all the staff are absolutely amazing.
Find out more about QEF's Care and Rehabilitation Centre