When we met Steven in Horatio’s Garden London and South East, he’d spent seven weeks at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore (RNOH) and six weeks in the acute ward at St George’s Hospital in Tooting prior to that.
“The RNOH is about 40 miles from my home. My wife was just nine weeks along with our first child when I was admitted.”
Anticipating the arrival of his firstborn, Steven thought that the next time he’d be visiting a hospital, it would be to support his wife and child.
He never imagined that he would be the one being rushed to hospital.
“I had a growth on my spinal cord known as a cavernoma, which caused compression of the cord around levels T12/L1.”
“Immediately following the surgery, I was largely trying to wrap my head around the potential implications of my injury. I made use of the physio that was available and simply tried to gauge how likely I was to make any sort of recovery.”
A Lead Structural Engineer by profession, Steven slowly began to adjust to the shock of his spinal cord injury and was soon moved to continue his rehabilitation at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre (LSCIC) in Stanmore.
Here, he began to focus on maximizing his recovery. He began giving everything he possibly could in his dedicated Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy time, embraced the gym and swimming pool facilities, engaged in patient education and generally appreciated the fantastic care given by the NHS medical team.
He also found himself at the heart of the community in Horatio’s Garden London & South East.
“As soon as I was out of Covid isolation, I made good use of the garden. Whenever I was not in Physio, I would be out enjoying the summer weather (and occasionally the rain too)!”
“The garden was a place where I could find some tranquillity from the busy ward. It gave me the space to contemplate, read and a chance to reconnect with nature by just watching the bees, birds and squirrels go about the garden.”
“Everyone here is dealing with significant, life-changing events, so it’s nice for everyone to have this open, calm space. It gives us all a break from the heaviness. For once, you’re not weighed down by the impact of your injury or by wondering about your future.”
Just before his injury, Steven had recently come to enjoy gardening at home, so he found participating in Horticultural Therapy particularly beneficial.
“It was a way of reconnecting with my life before the injury, as well as a motivation to continue with my recovery.”
“I’ll never forget the hours I spent repotting copious amounts of plants in the greenhouse (mostly tomatoes!), taking cuttings and helping the Head Gardener, Ashley, in the greenhouse.”
“Gardening brought a degree of normality back to my life. Plus, I learned valuable skills to take back home with me, which have helped me and my wife in our continued battle with our own garden!”
Between honing his horticultural skills and making the most of the bright summer blooms, Steven also found Horatio’s Garden to be the perfect place to practice his wheelchair skills during Occupational Therapy sessions. However, it was always the thought of being able to see his visitors that moved him most.
“The garden provided the space for me to receive a few visitors during my stay, which due to Covid was something that was severely limited.”
“During that time, being able to roll out here from the ward was amazing. It picked my morale up and gave me that additional boost to keep plugging on with the rehab.”
Steven had plenty to preoccupy himself with, but in spite of everything, his thoughts never strayed from his family, his wife and the future of their baby.
Fast-forward to four months later, that future no longer felt so far away.
“I’ve been able to return to work full time, I’ve gone back to driving and my wife and I are patiently waiting to welcome our little one into the world safe and sound.”
“My physical recovery is heading in a positive direction too. I still suffer with fatigue quite a lot, but I can feel my strength and endurance building bit by bit. In the long term, I’d like to be able to recover enough to get back to running and cycling.”
“More generally, I’m simply looking forward to enjoying our life as a family and to get back to tending the garden.”
So much can be said for Steven’s appreciation of the simple things in life, a lesson he’s bound to be teaching his little one and his loved ones as they spend a lifetime sowing and growing together.