We have been married for 44 years and both retired quite early, in our 50s. We were a very busy, happy, go-lucky couple and were enjoying life to the full after working hard. Our kids were grown and off our hands and we enjoyed our three young grandchildren. One minute we were busy planning our daughter’s wedding and the next minute this accident happened and turned life upside down.

It was the middle of summer; we had a really busy day with family and collected our granddaughter from school. We came home, had dinner, watched a film and got ready to go to bed. I had got into bed and Harvinder just happened to sit on the edge of the bed, but as he got up, he lost his balance and fell backwards. It was literally just that, a split second, a fall from the bed. He broke his neck at C4/C5.

By the time I jumped out of bed and got around to him he said “I think I’ve broken my neck. I can’t feel my legs”. The ambulance took over three hours to arrive and those hours were the longest because we couldn’t move him despite him pleading for us to because his arm was trapped under him, turning blue.  

The paramedics quickly realised how serious it was and took us to St George’s hospital. It was about 5am at this point and we were told that it was a very high-level injury. A doctor who wasn’t very careful with his words told me that the days of my husband’s independence were gone – it was heartbreaking. 

The surgery on his neck happened that same night.  It went well but I was reminded that there wasn’t a lot that could be done to rectify the damage to the spinal cord. We were told that we would have to wait to see how the nerves and body would recover. We had no idea what we might be facing.  

Harvinder was at St George’s from June to October because there wasn’t a bed available at Stanmore Spinal Injury Centre and there a further delay due to a pressure sore. This was really frustrating. The staff at St George’s did as much as they could, but the hospital is not specialised in spinal cord injury so it wasn’t what he needed.

Harvinder was incredibly strong, but I think this period of waiting was his lowest point. He didn’t think he was going to survive the surgery, but he did, he made good progress, all the tubes were out, and he felt he was going to be ok. Then that four month wait in the hospital was brutal, we were all exhausted trying to stay motivated. Had everything moved more quickly, it would have easier to remain positive because you see progress. Sometimes I think the waiting for the rehab was harder than the accident itself.

We’re a very close family and rallied around each other, but everyone’s life was on hold. The kids couldn’t help me during the week due to their work and having grandchildren at school but at the weekend they would give me some respite to get some rest at home.

Harvinder and Jasbir with their family

We really felt for our daughter. We had such a big wedding planned for her, which was only four weeks away when the accident happened. Despite the circumstances we were unable to get any money back.  My daughter refused to go ahead with the wedding, there was no way she was going to get married without her Dad there.

We didn’t see our grandchildren as much during this period as Harvinder didn’t want them to come to the hospital. After about three months, when he was able to sit in a wheelchair and we could take him to the café, the grandchildren were able to see him. 

Once we got to Stanmore Lindsay, Aspire’s Independent Living Advisor, introduced herself and it was really nice to chat to someone who has lived through this so we could get advice about what support was available. 

Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice was very helpful. We had the initial chat in hospital, then once Harvinder was home I received an email to remind us that we could make claims and asking if we felt ready to start the process. A phone call was arranged, and it went from there. That was useful because you get so busy settling back into life, it would have slipped my mind.

Michelle went through our application form, filled it in to make sure it was correct and the information was clear, then it was all emailed to me. I didn’t have to do much at all other than speak to Michelle. I don’t think I would have done it on my own. It would have felt like an extra chore, and something else to think about so the assistance and push to get things started was really helpful.

Thankfully we both have good company pensions; we’re lucky and were ticking over financially but since the accident we definitely have extra expenses and Harvinder’s rehab sessions are very expensive.

Thanks to Aspire, this extra money is helping right now because we can commit the allowance towards the specialised physio.

Michelle also told us about Carers Allowance so we’re now also considering whether two sessions a week could be beneficial because of this extra money.

Welfare Benefits Advice

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