A woman has won her fight to look after her husband at home after he suffered terrible brain injuries in a motorbike accident.
Paula Forster went through a year of torment before she was able to bring husband Stephen back to their Prestatyn home.
Her story was told at a special lunch held in St Asaph by leading North Wales law firm Swayne Johnson as a fund-raiser for the Headway charity which backed Paula in her struggle against the medical establishment.
Denbigh-based Swayne Johnson are also supporting Headway’s efforts to open a new centre in Denbighshire alongside their existing North Wales offices in Llandudno, Wrexham and Caernarfon.
Stephen was left fighting for his life after the accident and the 60-year-old spent 10 months in hospital.
He had sustained such severe head and brain injuries that doctors recommended he stayed at North Staffordshire Hospital for his full time care but Paula, also aged 60, was determined to look after her husband at their Prestatyn home and with the help of the Headway charity, she has convinced medical professionals to let her do so.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” said the former steward at RAF Stafford: “They’ve been there for me throughout all this and have been amazing. They have given me the confidence to question things and challenge the decision the doctors made.”
Paula and Stephen met later in life and have three children each from previous relationships. The couple were living in the five-bedroomed home that Stephen, a professional electrician and builder, had constructed in Leek, when disaster struck in 2012.
“Stephen had been in Manchester one day in February and it was snowy and the roads were icy,” Paula said: “He was on his way home when the car behind him skidded and he was knocked off his motorbike and dragged 300 metres along the M6.
“His helmet came off and he was wedged under the wheel arch of the vehicle. When we got the phone call to say what had happened we were told it was a life or death situation.”
Stephen spent a week in a coma and once he came out of it his memory and behavioural functions were left permanently damaged due to the extent of his brain injuries.
Paula said: “He then spent 10 months in specialist care on the psychiatric unit. While he was there they had him sectioned and kept in a locked ward.
“They said he would have to go into full time care but I didn’t want that for him. I knew that if it had been me it’s not what I would have wanted so I wanted to look after him at home.”
Financial difficulties had forced Paula to leave their house and move to Prestatyn so she contacted Rosemary Holland from the Conwy and Denbighshire branch of Headway.
With the support of the charity, Paula campaigned to have the section lifted and eventually persuaded medics that she could care for Stephen at home herself.
“It’s not easy,” she said: “We have to keep the doors locked as he wouldn’t really know where he was if he got out and he has no road sense but I know he is more comfortable and settled here with me.
“Headway have made that possible for me and they’ve been a great support. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Headway work with patients and families affected by brain injury and rely on charitable donations to offer support, advice, run groups and organise trips for members.
Swayne Johnson solicitor Sian Thompson said: “I have worked with Headway for a number of years as a Court of Protection solicitor looking after the interests of people who have acquired head injuries.
“It’s very different to dementia cases and can have a very complex effect on families and Headway should be better known than it is because of the unique work it does and the people it supports.
“The opening of a new branch in Denbighshire is something we want to get involved in because the greater the awareness of what headway does then the more people like Stephen it can help.”
Rosemary, who understands the devastating consequences of brain injury herself having watched her brother suffer a horrific accident at a cattle market, said: “The first time Paula called me on the phone I knew what she was going through.
“My brother was originally given 48 hours to live and placed on life support but eventually walked out of the hospital three months later.
“I was able to give Paula the support she needed and to reassure her that all the time that doors were closing, and often being slammed in her face, that eventually we would get one open that would stay open and that is what we did.”
Paula said: “We are absolutely delighted with the support we’ve had from Swayne Johnson. We wouldn’t have been able to take the group forward without them and now we’re looking at opening a second branch in the area and other projects that they have made possible.”
For more information on Headway go to https://www.headway.org.uk