Matthew is a 34 year old with lots of determination: he plans to go to college, travel the world and start his own company.
When he was 19, his life changed dramatically. On a rainy November night, he was driving around a bend when he swerved to avoid a man in the road and crashed into a tree.
He recalls being trapped inside his car: “I tried to get to my phone but I couldn’t reach out to it. I thought it was because I was pinned in the car - but I had actually broken and dislocated my neck at the C4 and C5 vertebrae and so I was permanently paralysed from my shoulders downwards. I stayed in hospital for about nine months.”
As doctors tried to put his neck back into place, Matthew was in severe pain. A halo brace was bolted to his skull and fitted around his chest to safely support his head and neck which were set at an angle so he could not look down.
“I had breathing problems and got pneumonia twice. I could not sleep and was exhausted by Christmas so I begged for a sleeping pill. My medical team agreed and I had a few precious moments of sleep, then woke to hear that I had nearly died several times because my body could not clear the mucus out of my lungs.”
As he needed help with his breathing, he had a tracheostomy (a hole cut in his windpipe) and was attached to a ventilator.
From March to July, Matthew was in a rehab spinal unit. After about six months looking up at the ceiling, he was finally able to move his head downwards and was put in a sitting position.
“I found the ventilator very restrictive but was told that I might never come off of it. I was determined to prove the doctors wrong. It was very hard as I had to learn how to eat, drink and talk again, but I managed to get off of it.”
He eventually moved into a specially designed bungalow in Braintree and has two carers with him day and night. Matthew thanks his parents Edwin and Helen, sister Katie, aunty Debbie and cousin Olly for helping him through his recovery, along with his good friends and the medical staff and carers.
In summer 2015, he spent two weeks in hospital after developing sepsis from a urine infection and having an allergic reaction to penicillin. His sister Katie – who worked for The J’s Hospice – suggested that he contact The J’s Clinical Team.
Matthew has been benefitting from our specialist care and support ever since. “I have my own J’s Hospice Specialist Nurse called Caroline who helps me a lot. She got the special dressings that I need for my skin and she comes to meetings with the company that provides my carers. I really appreciate her support - she stands up for me so I get the care that I need. I don’t want to go into a care home and that might have happened if The J’s hadn’t fought for me.”
In summer 2016, Matthew was hospitalised with sepsis again along with a chest infection and was given only a 10% chance of surviving but he bravely fought back and recovered.
“I got better but that illness left me feeling very low and unwilling to leave my house. Caroline told me that it was consuming my thoughts in an unhealthy way so I agreed to meet with The J’s counsellor. The eight weekly counselling sessions made a real difference - I would’ve given up but she really helped me through it. She’s a good listener and encouraged me to meet her away from my home to get me going out again. I’ve set myself some goals and I’m much more positive now.“
Last year, Matthew had an emergency admission to hospital and was thankful to have help from The J’s again. “The J’s Hospice supported me so I had access to the right equipment and they ensured that the correct follow-up care was put into place for me. They have worked in partnership with other organisations so I now have a care package that meets my needs.”
Matthew can control his computer by mouth and wants to do a computer graphics course. The J’s Social Worker went with him to Braintree College to find out more and he plans to start soon.
He also wants to travel, starting with a visit to his parents in Worcestershire then Europe, Australia and Canada. His J’s Hospice nurse is looking into grants for a travel hoist and special mattress.
Matthew is looking forward to a brighter future and would like to start a business. “Without The J’s Hospice, I wouldn’t be here now. Life was tough and I lost the light at the end of the tunnel for a while but The J’s has helped me get it back. I don’t know when I’m going to die, but now I want to live more.”