I wrote a blog about me and lockdown last year but time really has flown and there is a lot to catch up on in my life!

Working as an Independent Living Advisor

I’m the Aspire Independent Living Advisor in Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff. Well, here’s the first big change…the Spinal Injury Centre has completely moved to a new site in a place called Llandough. But more on that later.

For the past year I have been working from home after a short stint being furloughed. Working from home has been a challenge, trying to get in contact with patients on the ward and building connections with them remotely isn’t easy. But, I did make sure I caught up with ex-patients and did have the odd contact with in patients. I honestly couldn’t wait to get back on the ward and start meeting and helping the people who are there.

Being in hospital can be extremely daunting so to not have any support during COVID must have been even worse. I dread to think of what patients missed out on and hope they get in contact if they ever need help.

Sometimes it’s the smallest bits of info that make the biggest difference, like a key ring on a zip to make it easier to pull up if you have no hand dexterity.

Passing on my experiences of living an independent life really gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment. I get to call it my work which is a real privilege. After months of waiting I was finally given the go ahead to come back. This time I was going to a totally different hospital which is a challenge in itself. Quite a few years ago it was announced that Rookwood Hospital was going to be closing and the neuro and Spinal Injury Centre would move to another hospital called Llandough. Eventually this year it happened; it's lovely and, like anywhere new, it does have teething problems but on the whole its pretty smart.

I couldn’t wait and my first day back was smack in the middle of the heatwave we had a few weeks ago. A mix of emotions filled my body, I was nervous. I was now going into the patients space rather than them coming into ‘my’ space which kind of felt like I was cold calling. But they were welcoming and happy to have someone with lived experience on the ward.  It almost felt like my very first day on the job! I had totally forgotten my speil and mumbled in between drinking bottles of water to keep cool. Next week will surely be better I thought.. and you know what, it was. I was back in some sort of form. It really is great to be back.

Matthew and Amanda after getting married

My personal life

Work aside my personal life has been all go!  Since we last checked in I have got married to the beautiful Amanda and moved from my one bed flat to a lovely bungalow.  Just before lockdown we purchased a bungalow on the outskirts of Bridgend. Then lockdown hit. Amanda single handidly painted and decorated every room and has made it such a haven to be in. We got a carpenter to build a little wooden ramp at the front and had a low threshold door put in with a key fob door so I can get in and out without help. The only thing  was we didn’t have a wet room. After getting plenty of quotes we settled on someone to install one.  It was completed in April and this meant we could move in. So much space to wheel around!

The ramp at Matthew  Inside Matthew

We moved in just in time. On 19th April we got married in Cardiff City Hall after our original date of 26th September was cancelled. Amanda and I met when she was a student nurse when I was a patient after my spinal cord injury. Seven years later we went out on a date and we took off from there!

It was beautiful day and after the ceremony we had a get together in the local park, called Bute park. We had delicious grazing boxes packed with different meats and a variety of treats.  The weather was great and the trees in the park were in full blossom making the day even more romantic. It was a fairly small gathering but it was perfect. Maybe we’ll have a big party when we can but there’s no rush!

Matthew and Amanda in the park on their wedding day

It's great now that restrictions are getting more relaxed and we’re able to travel and visit different places again. I know its been a really difficult time for a lot of people and we still have to be careful but I’m feeling positive about the future. Life has more or less got back to normal. I’ve started going to live gigs again and the other week went to welsh proms in Cardiff castle. What a beautiful place to have a concert.

Now I’m on to filming more for Weatherman walking which is on BBC wales which is great fun and I get to do exciting activities for tele!

I keep looking forward and keep looking for the positives. Life is ever-changing but it’s up to us how we let it change us.

I’m sure we’ll catch up again but for now that’s my life from the past year.

Aspire's Independent Living Advisor Matthew talks about life in lockdown

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Living with Spinal Cord Injury

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