Before his injury, Henry worked as a DJ.  When he was discharged from hospital, he had no home to go back to, so he has been living in an Aspire House for over two years whilst he waits for the Council to find him an accessible property.

Before my injury, I had been working as a DJ for about eight years. When I was 16, I got a pair of decks for Christmas. I started out playing at birthday parties and from there doors started opening. I had residences at clubs in six different cities and was lucky to have features on BBC and Capital Extra. I was flying!

Henry with his DJing equipment

I’m a night owl so after a gig, I would get some rest and then during the day, go to the gym and spend time with my daughter. I also loved running, considered myself a healthy individual and am an absolute advocate for healthy eating. 

I went to the doctor a few times as I couldn’t seem to get rid of a chesty cough, which ended up so bad that my whole chest would hurt when I would cough.  Unbeknownst to me, a rare form of tuberculosis, which developed into meningitis, was spreading its way around my body.

Henry in his wheelchair

I was working in Birmingham at the time and thought I was just tired after DJing for three nights in a row.  One night, I finished at around 4am, and after a quick snooze I was able to drive the two hours back home, but on the way into my apartment my legs went out from under me. I managed to call my sister to tell her I just wasn’t feeling right and the next thing I remember I was hooked up to a life support machine with tubes down my throat.

I’d slipped into a coma and my family were asked to come in to say their goodbyes, but after two weeks I came out of the coma.  For weeks I didn’t know I was paralysed, as I never had the urge to move my legs. I think my brain was trying to catch up with things. I remember when the news was broken to me; I was on my own, the consultant held my hand and broke the news that I was paralysed from the chest down.

I spent over eight weeks in intensive care in Doncaster Hospital before the doctors felt I was strong enough to move to the Spinal Injury Centre.  To be honest, I was still in utter shock – it hadn’t really hit me.

Because she had been told I wasn’t going to make it, my sister had been appointed as power of attorney.  She’d got rid of my apartment, my car – everything. I was given a discharge date but I had nowhere to go. After approaching the council and being officially declared homeless, they began to look for properties for me, but they were few and far between, as it was a real struggle to find accessible places nearby.  A lot of the properties in the area are old so don’t meet requirements in terms of wheelchair access.

Whilst I was in hospital, Paul, an Aspire Independent Living Advisor would come in to speak with other patients.  I remember him saying ‘Aspire is here to help’.  During one conversation with other patients about my housing situation, one of them reminded me that we had been told about Aspire and their properties, so I went online to find out more and spoke to Paul about my housing issues.

I have now been living in an Aspire house for two years and it ticks all the boxes. 

To be honest, it’s how I’m used to living as it’s airy and spacious and there’s ample space to move around in my chair.

In hospital, the nurses are always there, but when you come out, you’re on your own.  I’ve had to learn again to be independent in a home setting, practicing what I’ve learnt in the ward, such as how to confidently transfer to my shower chair. It takes me about two hours to get showered and another 45 minutes to get dressed but I get there.

I’m finding my independence again.

I’ve experienced many milestones in the house: transferring from my bed to the wheelchair; manoeuvring around the house; making my first meal (chicken and sweet potato fries – I’m not into takeaways!).  I’m also sharing tips and things I’m learning with a WhatsApp group that’s I have with some of the guys from the hospital. My friends are so impressed by the place and the way that it’s adapted. They’ve even asked to take videos and pictures of the various features in the house.  Being able to do things for myself everyday means the world right now. Taking the rubbish out was huge.

Henry in his kitchen

I am grateful for Aspire’s ongoing support.  Recently, Phil, Aspire’s Money Advisor, contacted me to chat about my finances and it was really useful to speak with him.  His advice about how why it’s good to budget, how I could start a savings fund and how I can correct credit score errors which I have on my record, really helped me feel a bit more at ease about my financial situation."

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