Helping Rob cope with Tetraplegia

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Fantastic Aspiring Solicitor Award but pressure sore concerns still overshadow many days

The blogging has certainly been quiet but Rob has continued to be busy over the last few months. Most notable success was getting on the top 5 people to watch list produced by the Aspiring Solicitors as part of their “Outstanding Academic Achievement Award 2016” The Aspiring Solicitor Group is committed to increasing diversity in the legal profession and reported that the submissions for the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award 2016 were nothing short of incredible. They felt inspired reading all submissions and found it extremely difficult not to recognise everyone’s submission! However 5 were elected for special recognition.This was a fantastic achievement and just reward for the time and effort that Rob puts in to his university course work and work placements. Out of this Rob has had offers from some London based law firms for work experience placements. Rob has taken up one offer but asked for it to be postponed until the Spring and had it transferred to the firm’s Bristol office. The time spent in London proved that all is possible even if logistically challenging but taking everything into consideration Bristol as a base may have as much to offer as London.

University work builds up towards finals in the summer of 2017 with several 3000 word essays needed to be done by early January. This quite understandably is taking up most of Rob’s time at the moment
As if the dreadful time with a grade 3 pressure sore was not enough last year Rob had a to cope with the consequenses of a cushion failure. A seal broke that left Rob sitting on the hard base of his chair for about 2-3 hours – just like a flat tyre when the top looks inflated the part of the cushion on show was full but the back was flat. It had the feared outcome of creating another sore which whilst it did not go as deep as the last it is still limiting Rob’s time up in his chair. He had to go back to total bed rest followed by a gradual getting up process of an hour a day for a few days and increasing very slowly over the following weeks. The very nature of these sores is that there is no hard and fast rule to follow and doing the same thing one day has a different outcome to the next in terms of skin reaction. Rob has an underlying constant worry as to whether he is sitting up for too long, his time out or being at work on his computer are all interrupted by hourly pressure relief techniques. This is hugely disruptive to getting on with life and trying to concentrate on his work.
Rob has had help from Salisbury nurses who have visited a couple of times to reassure him that he is doing all the right things but they cannot take away the constant worry that getting it wrong could mean months in bed again.

Great result with only 14 men!

 

Rob had been given money from Charles Thursby-Pelham Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride for a fun day out. The chosen trip was to go to Twickenham and watch England take on Argentina in the Autumn International series. 5 mins in with Daley being sent off it seemed like it would have been the wrong match to choose but in the end it turned out to be one of the best watched there followed by the England v Canada ladies match. The trip included staying in London for the night rather than rushing back home. It nearly all fell through when we reached the hotel which had claimed to have accessible rooms. What they forgot to say (and Dad failed to check!) was that the lift to the room was tiny – a bit of dismantleing of the back of the wheel chair and with Rob’s toes bent double we just made it but it was a close call.

 

 

Thanking the Way of the Roses cyclists for their huge fund raising efforts

 

 

 

One Sunday the group of cyclists who took Dad on their Coast to Coast 186 mile weekend jolly came round to meet Rob and enjoy an extended lunch reliving some of the tales of the trip. The generosity of many donors enabled the riders to raise a terrific sum which went towards an educational trust for Rob and the occasion allowed Rob to thank the cyclists in person.

 

 

 

 

Drinks at home before 23rd Birthday party at Malmaison

 

 

Rob waited for his 23rd Birthday party until most of his school friends were back in the area. The night started at Rob’s annex and then it was taxis to a private dining room at Malmaison in Cheltenham for dinner followed by a demonstration of cocktail making with the compulsory sampling. A great night was had by all but and it certainly was not Robert who needed all the caring the next morning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New ditch found to tackle in the woods

Don’t forget me!

 

 

As Robert’s sore got better he has also managed to get back out in his all terrain chair and walk the dogs along with his Mum and Kirsty. New challenges were found in the woods just to give Rob’s mother heart failure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas dinner

 

 

Christmas 2017 was so much better than 2016 most notably because Rob could be sat up rather than being flat in his bed at the dining table. Decorations are down now and it is head down for finals.

EDF, Channel 4 and Reed Smith - My summer's work experience

This summer hasn’t been all enjoying the sun and beaches of Somerset and Dorset. I have also undertaken some work experience with the legal department of EDF Energy along with a combined placement in the Legal and Compliance Department of Channel 4 and with the Entertainment and Media Group of Reed Smith, a global law firm based in London.
I really enjoyed both these experiences and they showed me what is still possible especially with the support of these fantastic organisations.

At work at EDF in Gloucester

At work at EDF in Gloucester


I was at EDF long enough for them to sort out ways for me to use their IT system. This was fantastic and enabled me to really feel like part of team. Everyone I met at EDF could not have been more accommodating and helpful whether it was a question I had about the work they had asked me to do or a question about the law more generally.
It was really fun to be part of a team again with and I really enjoyed the work as well.
If I thought logistics for EDF were difficult, ensuring that everything was prepared for the day and the paperwork that had to be filled out beforehand (due to highly regulated nature of EDF’s work), they were nothing compared to the logistics of staying in London for a week. In the end though we managed to find a fantastic set of apartments right next to St Paul’s, about halfway between Channel 4 and Reed Smith. This made the morning commute about as bearable as possible for London.
Also these apartments were more than happy to make changes to accommodate my stay, this included moving one of the double beds from the bedroom so that we could replace it with one more suitable for me. As well as this they came with parking under the apartment building, an obvious godsend in London.
My week began with two days with Channel 4 which consisted of seeing the various work which they do to enable the channel to keep producing a high quality of programs. Sadly this experience did not include a trip to Rio to see the work the channel is doing with the Paralympics.
Rob outside Channel 4 Office in London

Rob outside Channel 4 Office in London

The outlook from the Reed Smith officein London

The outlook from the Reed Smith officein London


Following this I spent three days sitting with two different partners in Reed Smith. This provided a really good insight into what life is like at a city law firm. Along with the fantastic experience this gave me, the view from the top floor of Reed Smith’s offices is unbelievable – 33 stories above central London really does give you another view of the city.
Despite the huge amount of organisation and planning required to spend this time away, liaising and a good bit of teamwork with the chess team ensured that the week was a success and gave me a lot of confidence in what is possible for me to do.
All in all this work experience and my summer more generally was a fantastic success and really showed what can be achieved with the help of family, friends and care team. Back to uni now for my third year and hopefully to continue the successes of my first two years.

Holiday in Dorset to finish the summer break

Rob has certainly kept busy over the latter part of the summer. Visits to walk the dogs at Westonbirt with his cousin Emily and her partner John from the States – though sometimes it is not clear who is taking who for the walk as Rosie and Pebbles become Robert’s huskies.

Taking a rest during the walk at Westonbirt

Taking a rest during the walk at Westonbirt

Saving on the batteries

Saving on the batteries

Blackberrying in the woods at home

Blackberrying in the woods at home

Then there were the blackberrying trips with Grandma – little did she know that they were destined for blackberry vodka rather than blackberry and apple pie. Rob also thoroughly enjoyed his day trip to Reading Festival with Rob and Gwillym. Calling it a day trip is misleading as they did not return until the small hours of the morning. Rob intends to look into making it a two day trip and camping over next year!

Gwillym and the two Robs started on coffee by the looks!

Gwillym and the two Robs started on coffee by the looks!

Beer at this stage!

Beer at this stage!

Having just returned from his week at Channel 4 and Reed Smith late Friday night it was a quick turn around for Rob and his care team to get ready for the family holiday at Axnoller near Beaminster in Dorset on Monday. It was a relatively last minute holiday and Rob and his family really appreciated the dedication of his care team who were prepared to work at sorting the rota so that all shifts could be covered. We booked a separate cottage close by for the carers for their base as it was not practical for them to do a shift, drive home for 2 1/2 hours and then be back on shift the next day.A separate van also had to be hired to take all the equipment including the extra wheelchair, air bed, wet ventilator circuit etc and all the consumable medical bits which certainly mounts up when a weeks supply is put together. Rob and family had a very peaceful and spacious farm cottage at West Axnoller Farm which was a great base for exploring the “Jurassic Coast” as well as trying out Rob’s skills against quad bikes on a trip to The Henley Hillbillies.Rob was very grateful to be allowed to use the track but it did require some persuasion,understandably to be allowed to go over their steeper humps. At one time Rob raced towards his Dad as his ventilator tube had become disconnected and asking the instructor to put it back on was not possible!!His instructor then asked whether it was only talking that Rob could not do when he was disconnected from his ventilator – no reason why he should have known any different!!

The quad bike racers - Rob, Dad, Kev the carer and Kirsty

The quad bike racers – Rob, Dad, Kev the carer and Kirsty

Kirsty and Rob at the Henley Hillbillies track

Kirsty and Rob at the Henley Hillbillies track

Apart from seeing some dramatic scenery along the coast at West Bay with the towering cliffs above or searching for the fossils at Charmouth beach Rob took on some challenging driving along coastal paths. These routes would not feature in any Accessible walks book but that did not phase Rob from giving it a go. It was the first series of steps that Rob had attempted and needless to say Rob made it look easy with the comment “if we are going to try Snowdon next year then we can’t be put off by these!” His Mum decided to walk in the other direction whilst the challenge was taken! Having successfully got up the steps it was frustrating to be stopped by a kissing gate a little further along the path! This video clip shows Rob heading back down the steps only to be met by someone who stopped Rob and asked if he would go and speak with his client who wanted to know all about the chair that Rob used. It turned out that “the client” was also tetraplegic although not ventilated and was someone who had been in Salisbury at the same time as Rob. They exchanged stories and each passed on their own practical tips about bits of equipment that helped them and about coping with the challenges of the dramatic sudden changes that had happened to both their lives. A small world.

The view from the top of the steps

The view from the top of the steps

You came up them so the only way is down.

You came up them so the only way is down.

Other walks along the coast paths also through up their driving challenges and one that required a fence to be temporarily moved but there were also some quieter times allowing everyone to enjoy the sea air and local dining.

The harbour at West Bay

The harbour at West Bay

Good local seafood was never far away in our plans!

Good local seafood was never far away in our plans!

TEAM ROB COMPLETE TOUGH MUDDER 2016!

Team Rob ready for the off

Team Rob ready for the off

Guest Blog by Rob’s Uncle Mike

After completing the event in 2015 planning for a repeat was never in doubt. Many of last year’s team (Rob with Dad Ian, cousin Simon, friends Ian and Rob Telford) were joined by a couple of newbies, Rob’s sister Kirsty and family friend Nigel Hopkins to take on Tough Mudder 2016. Rob’s carers for the day Cathy, who took part in 2015 and Will joined the team and for some reason decided that taking on the obstacles made sense.

Not muddy enough yet!

Not muddy enough yet!!

Learning from last year, increasing battery power was going to be key – so Ian and Rob worked with Rob’s Chair supplier All Terrain to create a trailer with 2 extra batteries which when attached to Rob’s chair would double the time Rob’s chair could go without charging. A further set of well-engineered amendments by neighbour Chris Pain further improved the manoeuvrability.

Mud Bath!

Mud Bath!

A portable generator was carried in the support vehicle so the trailer batteries could be charged while Rob continued on the course.

The team met up in time for a 9.30 start only to find a wire hanging off Rob’s chair – a pair of reading glasses, a considered debate and plenty of “duck” tape rectified the problem and the team assembled for the 10.30 start. With the weather set fair and Rob introduced to his fellow starters the group set off on the 11-mile course. The only concern after the first couple of miles and 5 obstacles was that Nigel’s bright orange t-shirt was still bright orange.

Up and over!

Up and over!

After 3 hours of really good progress and Rob leading the team over a couple of tricky cross-overs the trailer batteries needed charging – perfect time to meet up with Chris and his wife Jan to oversee the process. A brief breather and the team pushed on gaining great energy from all the other ”Mudders” and supporters en-route whilst at the same time inspiring everyone else on the course with Rob’s ability and drive to overcome everything in front of him. It was clear that the team had forged a great spirit, supporting each other as obstacle after obstacle was overcome. They also somehow managed to save enough energy, as our Video Clip proves, to behave like children at many of the obstacles! As the mud deepened Rob’s skill at manoeuvring his chair was increasingly superior to the ability of his team-mates to stay on track.

Mud mile!

Mud mile!

 

Everyone pushed themselves to the limit, taking on obstacles that were really out of their comfort zone but with a steely determination to beat everything in front of them. Rob C dragging Rob T across the Hero Carry and then did Rob T really carry Simon all that way? Ian T quietly kept the team moving forward with Kirsty thoroughly “enjoying” her mud bath during Mud Mile. Did Ian C, Ian T and Nigel get right across the Funky Monkey 2.0 and Simon through the Birth Canal? Visit our Facebook Photo Album and watch our Video Clip to find out! The non-stop laughs and banter kept everyone energised so that when with a couple of miles to go the heavens opened it was embraced and everyone looked forward to climbing Everest 2.0 before separating for the last obstacle. Newbies to the Electricshock Therapy and the Legionnaires (previous Tough Mudders) to the new Frequent Flyers Club – just what Ian wanted; to tackle his fear of heights!

 

Heave!

Heave!

Not so clean now!

Not so clean now!

 

With the last obstacles conquered and Rob leading from the front the team crossed the finish line to pick up their 2016 Tough Mudder Finisher T-shirts and a well-earned drink. A quick wash down, change of clothes and back home to freshen up before re-grouping at Ian and Gill’s for supper and to relive a wonderful inspiring day reflecting on a fantastic achievement by all who took part. Pictures never lie and the smiles on the team’s faces throughout tell it all.

 

 

A big thank you to Team Rob’s family, friends and fellow “Mudders” who cheered them on all the way round, and all at Tough Mudder for their support, providing a back up vehicle throughout the day and helping ensure the day was so memorable.

 

After two years of mud and mischief Team Rob will be going for a hat trick next year. Anyone interested in joining in the fun book your ticket early and get in touch with us – Chris and Jan Pain have already signed up! The more the merrier!

Team Rob at the finish

Team Rob at the finish

 

 

Holiday Work Placements

Rob has changed from his jeans into his suits as he undertakes holiday work experience over the summer. Rob has returned to the legal department of EDF Energy in Gloucester where he spends 3 days a week continuing to learn the ropes of what being part of the legal team in a large international energy company looks like. Rob has really enjoyed being of real help whilst reviewing various contractual issues for example and is very grateful for the adjustments that EDF have made to make it possible for him.

Back from a day at EDF in Gloucester

Back from a day at EDF in Gloucester

Whilst researching what it takes to get on the ladder to follow a legal career Rob looked at the Aspiring Solicitors web site and found that diversity champions Channel 4 and Reed Smith were offering a unique opportunity to two individuals to experience working in the law in both a creative media environment and in one of the world’s biggest law firms. Rob got his application in just before the deadline and there was a tense wait whilst waiting to see if he got onto the interview list. Within a week Rob was offered an interview to be held at the office of Reed Smith in central London the following Monday. A call to EDF to explain that he would not be in on Monday followed by a weekend of preparatory research and practice interviews set Rob up for for a testing day – Rob wanted to create an outstanding impression as the placement fitted so well with his desire to follow a career in media law.Rob set off early to London with his two carers who have to check whether to come dressed ready for a walk round the woods or a trip to a leading law firm in London! Rob felt the interview went well but it was an anxious wait to hear the outcome. Rob’s smile said it all when the notification came through that he had been successful.

In the big City on the way to an interview for work experience

In the big City on the way to an interview for work experience

Outside the central office of Reed Smith

Outside the central office of Reed Smith

The work experience will run for a week from Monday 5th to Friday 9th September and will be split between Channel 4’s award winning Legal & Compliance team and Reed Smith’s offices in London.

The next challenge is the logistics of finding a hotel to stay in in London for the week and to get the carers shifts sorted out at relatively short notice for the stay away.

Summer of activity

The 2nd year exam results came and gave some reward for the huge effort that Rob had put into his work whilst lying in his bed for months waiting for his pressure sore to heal. High 2:1s and a couple of firsts would be good enough for most but Rob sees it as a challenge to go even better next time. As the work was done it was still really important for Rob to keep busy. Thankfully the weather improved and Rob has been able to get out of the house and
a trip down the M5 to Sandy Park at Exeter to watch the final day of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix 7s was great day out. Not only did we see The GB Lions win in their final preparation for the Rio Olympic games but Rob met up with Robin Plumpe who was in the same Wycliffe 1st XV team that Rob was and who now plays for Germany.

Rob meets up with school rugby team mate Robin at the home of Exeter Chiefs.

Rob meets up with school rugby team mate Robin at the home of Exeter Chiefs.

Rob decided to treat his family to a special meal out and spent a lot of time researching for something a little different. The Indian fine dining at the Prithvi restaurant in Cheltenham (which has been recommended for a Michelin star) proved to be a fanatstic choice and we had a great evening there.

Fine dining at the Prithvi Indian Restaurant in Cheltenham

Fine dining at the Prithvi Indian Restaurant in Cheltenham

A big step forward was Rob’s holiday break with 10 of his school friends at a cottage in West Bagborough. Rob had organised it finding a cottage located at the foot of the Quantocks; a luxury timber-clad holiday villa “Cockercombe”

Some of the Cockercombe holiday party on their beach walk

Some of the Cockercombe holiday party on their beach walk

with six en-suite bedrooms with its own 22ft x 10ft indoor heated swimming pool and good sized garden and games room. Whilst it was not far away it was the first time that Rob had been away Monday- Friday in total radio silence from his parents!! A great time was had by all with the beer supply for the week needing replenishing after a couple of days! The great time had is also difficult for Rob as he can only sit and watch others throwing the rugby ball and diving into the pool but being with such a great group of friends is much better than not.

Rob has taken the opportunity to get out most days into the countryside when the weather allows and the recent spell of good weather has also certainly helped the post walk clean up process to the carers delight. Part of the point is training for the up and coming Tough Mudder Event on Aug 21st but it is good fun for all involved whether it be with the two dogs or Kirsty on her horse.

Out along the severn banks by the concrete barge graveyard at Purton

Out along the severn banks by the concrete barge graveyard at Purton

The race is about to start!

The race is about to start!

The ex cavalry horse is not phased by Rob's mode of transport

The ex cavalry horse is not phased by Rob’s mode of transport

 

 

 

 

 

Every trip out has not been without incident as the new battery on the trailer caught fire one day as the live terminal made contact with the metal ventilator basket as Rob went down a steep ditch. At least Rob could not see the fire behind him and some hasty blowing as if desperately trying to blow out the candles on a Birthday cake by his Dad along with breaking the contact saved the situation!

Setting up the Show Jump field

Picking the jumps up from the hospital - "is it the road clear to go?"

Picking the jumps up from the hospital – “is it the road clear to go?”

Job done - course built

Job done – course built

Whilst Rob takes an interest in Kirsty’s riding exploits he rarely actually gets involved but he was certainly happy to join in when Kirsty asked for help in setting up a show jump course in the field. The power of Rob’s chair and his driving skills were put to the test as the show jumps needed moving from the arena at the equine hospital to the field just down the road.
The old flat bed trailer was tied on to the back of Rob’s chair with good old bailer twine and then Rob towed it  to the arena to collect the jumps. Once the jumps were loaded on it was a steady drive down the road to the field. Once in the field Rob was able to drive round as Kirsty and his Dad unloaded the jumps around the field in just the right place for the course that had been designed. It took several trips but by the end of the evening the course was built and Rob quite rightly felt good having been an active part of the course building team where his towing of the trailer had made it the quickest and easiest way to get the job done.

Where to now?

Where to now?

The carers take a ride home

The carers take a ride home

The trip to Sandy Bay

Having picked the day for a trip out it had to be done what ever the weather! The original idea to go up Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons seemed too exposed for the forecast so it was decided to take a trip to the beach- somewhere close that the dogs were allowed on. Sandy Bay described on some websites as “Weston-super-Mare’s hidden gem, the perfect place to visit with family and and dogs” was chosen. The whole party busied round in the morning to get all jobs done and then we set off with fingers crossed for a break in the weather sometime. Kirsty travelled with Rob and the two dogs in the Caravelle and Dad went down with Peter and Anne who were over from the USA. The Commodore Hotel at Sandy Bay was dog friendly and so we went there for a pub style lunch. Thankfully Rob was in his all terrain chair so he could tackle the steps in the bar to get to our table. Even though they initially forgot one meal the food was great and it set us up for the “walk on the beach”.
As we set off it was dry but that only lasted about 10 minutes before the rain returned.

All smiles whatever the weather

All smiles whatever the weather


We went down onto the beach via the wooden walkway only to find that the tide was out but as we particularly wanted to get to the sea Rob set off towards the water’s edge. Speeding along with a few spins to draw pictures in the sand Rob soon found that what looked like wet sand was in fact mud! Not too deep to start with so with encouragement from his Dad it was decided to press on ignoring the fact that the rest of the party had come with footwear appropriate for sand! Eventually though sense had to prevail and we headed back for the dry land along a rocky route but not before the chair had got stuck with wheel spin and Kirsty’s shoe came off in the mud. We then decided to go along the top of the beach on actual sand and after a hundred yards or so we came across a sign which might have been more helpful close to the walk way down on to the beach!! Despite everything it was a fun afternoon out but we believe that someone must have stolen the gem that the website talked about!

Wheel spin in the mud - a bit of help needed for

Wheel spin in the mud – a bit of help needed for

Where was the sign when we needed it!

Where was the sign when we needed it!

Winner of Interview Advantage Competition

Rob has completed and sent in his final exam essay for the end of his 2nd year at Bristol Uni which is a great relief. Whilst having the course work, revision and then exams has been good during Rob’s lengthy time being bed bound Rob is certainly looking forward to his well earned break from studying.
Amongst doing his Uni work Rob found time to enter a competition run by Interview Advantage. It involved writing an essay titled “What’s your story” which had to illustrate at least three strengths that made him the “must have” future trainee solicitor or barrister’s pupil. Rob won the competition and the prize was a two hour session with mentors who gave Rob great advice which hopefully will do as it says and give Rob extra confidence in future interviews being able to show himself to his best possible advantage. Rob also received a cheque for £250. You can read Rob’s full essay on the Advantage Interview website

Rob with the Interview Advantage Directors

Rob with the Interview Advantage Directors

Rob also has been able to spend more time getting out for walks or should he say pulls with the two dogs Rosie and Pebbles who are in training for being his huskies! Although the weather makes dodging the rain tricky at least the ground is right for Tough Mudder training which is well underway

Who needs batteries when you've got Rosie and Pebbles

Who needs batteries when you’ve got Rosie and Pebbles

Pete and Anne join in the woodland adventures

Pete and Anne join in the woodland adventures with Rob and his sister

Exam time but also in the woods again

Rosie keeps an eye on the swans at Purton

Rosie keeps an eye on the swans at Purton

Rob continues to make progress in terms of the time he can sit up in his chair without causing too much trouble to his pressure sore/scar. He has to be very vigilant every day and under advice from Salisbury stuck at 8 hours sat up for a three week period. It seems that the next steps are quite slow as the scar is slow to mature and hence strengthening of the skin is also slow. 8 1/2 hours is maximum at the moment but it has allowed Rob to get to most of his course lectures and seminars in Bristol. What Rob missed out on was any time to spend with fellow students on the course or take part in any of the social activities. However as the class work is over now just like all other 2nd year students it is that stressful exam time but Rob is gradually ticking them off. The exams to date have been extended essays done at home or power point presentations given in University. Rob has also managed to fit in some down time to relax and get out again – walks down the canal bank make a welcome break having been stuck inside for so long. The addition of taking the dogs gives others added anxiety as to who may end up in the canal!
Another big step forward for Rob was to get back into his all terrain chair this weekend. Apart from the fun of it one eye is on building up for the Tough Mudder Event in Cirencester Park in August. The state of the woods at the moment gives ample mud to train in and there were only a couple of times when a helping hand was needed! Generally Dad gets sent on and if the mud does not come too far up his wellies then it is worth a go. Rob is challenging himself to rebuild his confidence in the amount of tilt that the chair can tolerate without actually tipping over! All great fun until it comes to cleaning the chair although Rob does do his bit by driving through the long grass in the fields on the way home to get the worst off.

Back in the woods

Back in the woods

Drive on!!

Drive on!!

Rob makes regular use of his new FES bike and it fits so much better into his schedule being able to do it either just before he gets up or as soon as he goes back to bed. Progress certainly has been made but it will still be some months before Rob is back to where he was before his pressure sore back in early December.