In Sickness and in Health: After months of silence, Nick has started talking

Earlier this year, Rebecca's husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

Share

The first time that I visited a neuro-rehab ward had nothing to do with Nick and his traumatic brain injury. Instead, I was doing the rounds with a different gorgeous, fair-haired creature.

Her name was Billie-Jean and she was a Pets As Therapy dog who I was trailing on her rounds at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability in Putney, South-west London.

I was there to write an article about her work. It was interesting and inspiring to see this impeccably behaved dog giving patients and staff some respite from the rigours of their days, hearing her elicit responses from people whose conditions had, in some cases, left them barely able to communicate.

Billie-Jean’s owner was overjoyed when one girl who she’d never heard speak answered a question about how her own dogs at home. They were “all right”. Cue gasps of delight all round.

There was a 50/50 chance that Nick would end up in Putney for the next stage of his recovery. It’s a grand place that was glorious in the sunshine on the day that I spent there six years ago. While waiting to hear if he would be going there, I was sent a glossy welcome pack that was pretty damn slick. However, Nick was sent to another unit, one that, thank God, is slightly easier to get to and that’s very near where his daughter lives.

Before he arrived, I went for an unannounced recce to check the place out. The hospital it’s situated in is certainly grand, if hulking concrete brutalism is your thing. Inside, though, things were bright and spacious. The ward he was destined for was sunny and calm. Wheelchairs were neatly lined up, and patients’ paintings decorated the walls. There was no brochure to speak of, but the therapeutic atmosphere said plenty.

My first full day with Nick in there, though, was somewhat less serene. Actually, I pretty much thought that I’d gone insane. Nick was in a room with three other chaps, only one of whom was there when I arrived. He was reading a book and, on a hot May day, wearing a Santa hat. This threw me a bit. Perhaps he needed to keep his head warm as part of his treatment. Then I spotted a pirate hat on another bed. Maybe you didn’t have to wear a hat here. Perhaps it just helped.

While getting my bearings on the ward, I saw a lady wearing a knitted hat that looked like a chicken. Another wore a garland of flowers in her hair. I began to wonder if I was seeing things. Hat-shaped things. The ward sister approached. Wearing a tiny, Mad Hatter-style topper. I’d definitely lost it.

Some hours of doubting my eyes later, I went to leave. And spotted a poster on the wall saying “Hats for Headway Day!”. Headway is the leading brain-injury charity and it was raising funds by encouraging staff and patients to wear titfers. Ah ha! It was a bit of jollity for a good cause.

I knew for sure then that this place was going to be good for Nick. Which it has turned out to be. Because while I’ve yet to procure a Pets As Therapy dog to come and give my husband some love, and while he missed out on the hat-based fun, he has astounded me and his carers. After months of silence, after months of wondering if I’d ever hear Nick’s voice again, he has started talking. All right? It’s so much better than that.

twitter.com/rebeccaj

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Ben Chu
David Cameron leaves Number 10 to speak at Parliament  

Tunisia attack: To prevent more bloodshed we must accept that containment has not worked

Patrick Cockburn
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'