“When I was in Stanmore last year the garden was still being completed, so it has been really lovely to see the finished product and be able to enjoy it.”
Chloe is 30 years old.
A teacher at a brilliant school called Jigsaw, which specialises in education for children with an autism spectrum disorder, Chloe was happily living her life in West Sussex. She loved her job, seeing it as a privilege to not only be able to teach academic subjects, but also to watch as the children she knew so well gained confidence in their communication and daily living skills.
In between teaching primarily sixth form students, supporting their families and enjoying the company of her fantastic colleagues, Chloe was drawing ever closer to completing her PhD in English Literature.
And then she slipped a disc.
With the soft cushion of tissue between the bones of her spine pushed out of place, pressure on the nerves of her spinal cord began to mount.
It was this that caused Chloe to suffer Cauda Equina Syndrome, a rare but serious condition which severely compresses all the nerves at the base of the spinal cord, cutting off sensation and movement in the lower body.
Arriving at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre (LSCIC), located in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, Chloe was over two hours away from home and faced an uncertain future.
With Horatio’s Garden London & South East under construction, Chloe was unable to spend time in the sanctuary during her initial stay.
As someone who loves being outdoors, Chloe missed being able to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world.
Nevertheless, she found comfort in the form of the centre’s NHS staff.
“I am so grateful to everyone who helped me at the spinal centre for their care and kindness. The nurses and doctors have been amazing in answering questions and helping my understanding.”
“I have also been so incredibly lucky with the fantastic physiotherapy I’ve received, both in terms of the support I’ve had in the centre, as well as in terms of all the knowledge they’ve given me to help me best continue with my rehabilitation at home.”
With rehabilitation going well, Chloe returned to the LSCIC this October for a planned two-week inpatient rehabilitation stay.
And this time, Horatio’s Garden London & South East was waiting to welcome her.
“I really appreciated having such a beautiful space to unwind in and enjoy some autumnal sunshine! The fact that the design of the garden allows everyone to access it directly from their bay is great – it felt good to have that freedom to just pop outside easily.”
“The garden made a big difference when it came to my friends and family visiting too. It was nice to be able to sit outside in a relaxed environment and chat with a cup of tea!”
Having experienced life in the spinal centre without Horatio’s Garden, Chloe was keen to make up for lost time.
“I was lucky enough to do some craft sessions with Tracey, which involved everything from card printing to sewing a cushion cover. I really loved learning how to use a sewing machine (Tracey was a very patient teacher!) in one of the beautiful garden pods. It was just nice to do something creative.”
The time Chloe spent with Garden Administrator Tracey will most certainly remain amongst her most treasured memories, whilst she also plans to hold onto her newfound horticultural knowledge.
“The garden gave me a lot of inspiration for things to try at home and the Head Gardener, Ashley, gave me some great tips for looking after my houseplants!”
“Just being able to chill outside and watch the birds having fun in the water features has been great. It’s simple, but it’s something I’ll always remember.”
Akin to her students, Chloe’s courage has continually grown, whilst her intrinsic kindness, intelligence and determination never faltered.
“I am going to continue with physiotherapy, alongside doing some swimming and I might try some water sports again.”
“I’m also really looking forward to (finally!) finishing my PhD and starting a career.”
With her plans falling into place, Chloe’s next chapter is set to be filled with all the good things she’s worked for and deserves.
The future looks bright.
Rather like the sun she so admired shimmering in the autumn sky.