Simon was serving in the army for about 22 years when he got injured. It all happened during lockdown, Simon was messing about in the garden with the kids on the trampoline. He fell into the paddling pool and straight away Simon said he couldn’t feel his arms. I initially thought he was just messing around. The paramedics quickly confirmed that Simon had suffered some type of paralysis.

After six weeks spent in Southampton General hospital and surgery to repair some of his nerves, Simon was moved to the Salisbury Spinal Injury Centre and then onto an army rehab unit. In total Simon was in hospital for a total of 24 months and two weeks. Visiting him during this time was really difficult. At times it would feel a bit like a prison visit with all the rules that were in place; for example, we could only be six feet apart, with no touching allowed. At a point, things also got stricter at the rehab unit so we could only meet for four hours at a time in a freezing cold hallway. Being told what we could and couldn’t do just didn’t feel right for adults who had been together for 23 years. It was equally difficult for the children to visit due to their work and university commitments. The children were absolutely amazing.

Simon with his family

With Simon being in the army, we were used to moving locations every two years. We had brought our property a few years back to try and settle down. The armed forces stepped in to help us and it was assessed that we would need a wetroom, wheelchair access to our bedrooms as well as to the actual property, in order to make it suitable for Simon. There was no way that Simon could come home until it was ready. We were told that it would take six months to do the work but we quickly saw the time plans slip – Covid has been constantly used an excuse, even two years since the process started. It has been frustrating as it has felt like losing even more control over our lives.

There were discussions about Simon moving to a nursing home but that is no place for a 40 year old man. I googled ‘adapted properties’ and came across Aspire. It felt like we had won the lottery.

We had also searched for other rental properties but anything we came across were not adapted. Whilst waiting for a care package to be secured, our Occupational Therapist pushed to secure the Aspire property; somewhere to come home to was the biggest part of the puzzle. We are very family-orientated, always having some kind of family activity going on. Four days after we moved into the property, it kicked in that the children weren’t around. But, although they weren’t able to live in the Aspire property, they were able to pop around loads. Christmas Day was the highlight; just being able to all be together and wake up together on Christmas morning. We’ve always been the entertainers so it was great to be able set up a little area in the garden to have barbecues for friends and family to come round. It confirmed for us that life could still be normal and that’s what Simon has always wanted. He was adamant that I continue to work; at no point was he going to allow me to stop doing so. He wanted us to continue to be as normal as possible.

It was very difficult, getting used to living in close proximity with strangers as Simon requires 24 hour care, however we accepted this very early on as it was important to us to keep the line between carers and being a married couple very separate.

Having so much space in the property allowed Simon to have a place to put his various bits of gym and rehab equipment. Simon loves fitness, having won various Strongest Man competitions in the past; it was a massive thing for him to continue to have a gym routine. The property also gave him space to have a desk set up with his computer, where he could continue to work.

Having Simon home was the endgame. I was a crying mess when he was finally discharged to the Aspire property, which happened to be in our home town, and felt like we had met a huge milestone. We couldn’t have had better luck.

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