May 7, 2024

Paul’s Story – Celebrating National Garden Scheme Gardens and Health Week 2024

The National Garden Scheme Gardens and Health Week 2024 is taking place from 4-12 May, aiming to raise awareness of the physical and mental health benefits of gardens and gardening for everyone. To mark the occasion, we are sharing Paul’s story, a beneficiary of Horatio’s Garden London & South East, in collaboration with the National Garden Scheme.

“I was injured using an e-bike in the city. I was about to pedal off when my body froze, and I couldn’t get my right leg down in time. I fell, my neck hit the curb and was fractured in two places. I was paralysed from the neck down.”

Originally from New Zealand, 52-year-old Paul works in investments in the city of London and lives in the capital with his beloved wife and son. Since his accident, Paul has spent five months in hospital adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury.

“My family and I have been going through this process, this journey, together. It’s been a great journey actually, one of self-discovery, of finding out about my character, and of being positive, particularly during my time at Stanmore.”

Paul’s arrival at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore helped Paul and his family to begin rebuilding their lives in the wake of Paul’s injury.

“Stanmore is amazing. Having the help of the NHS staff here has been wonderful – in Kiwi terms, it’s been ‘awesomes’! It’s brilliant and Horatio’s Garden is a huge part of that.”

Paul soon found comfort in Horatio’s Garden London & South East. From spending time quietly reflecting, to getting to know the thriving community at the heart of the garden, Paul discovered the joy waiting for him amongst the budding planting and particularly in the garden pods, where he often takes a moment to himself.

“Horatio’s Garden has been wonderful. It’s amazing, awesome, inspirational, motivating, and I think the most important thing is that it gives you space. For me personally, it gives me my own space, my own time, time to think, especially when I’m in the garden pods.

“I’m probably the one that uses the garden the most here! Every time I’m out in the morning, I’m in a garden pod either making a phone call or checking emails. I’m also probably the last person who’s out here at night, again in a garden pod watching a movie or listening to music.

“It’s a great place just to chill. It gives me the chance to think about the positive day that I’ve had with all the physio and occupational therapists. I can think about what I’m going to work on in rehabilitation, without any of the background noise of the ward and the hospital.”

For Paul’s family too, Horatio’s Garden London & South East has been a place offering calm and hope for the future. Together, they have created new memories amongst new friends in the garden, many of which bring tears to Paul’s eyes as he recollects them.

“I use the garden every weekend whenever I have family and friends come through. My sister actually came over to visit from New Zealand and she did pottery. The garden has helped my family to cope with this journey too, which is amazing.

“I’ve also enjoyed getting to know other patients and their families here, alongside participating in creative activities. We had a quiz night (my team won, of course, not that I’m gloating!), there’s been some fantastic live music, and I’ve had a great time doing painting as well. It was brilliant to have the opportunity to have a go and everyone was so supportive.

 “I love it. Without Horatio’s Garden, I think the journey would be totally different. I think people would struggle.”

Those who have the pleasure of meeting Paul can’t help but feel the strength of his extraordinarily kind, thoughtful, and humourous spirit. Whilst Paul may have found joy in Horatio’s Garden, he has also brought joy to the sanctuary and to all those spending time there too.

“Meeting the garden team and all the volunteers that come through has just been absolutely amazing. I keep thanking everybody, but I can’t stop, because everyone involved means so much to me personally. I can’t thank Horatio’s Garden and the charity’s staff and volunteers enough, and also the people and organisations that provide the funding to make these gardens possible.

“I’m sure there are lots of people spending time in Horatio’s Gardens who feel the same way, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s amazing. Keep up the great work!”

All we can say is thank you Paul. Thank you for sharing your story and for bringing a smile to so many people’s faces, today and always.

More of Paul’s story was recorded in a film interview, which you can watch here.

To learn more about the National Garden Scheme’s Gardens and Health Week, click here.

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