Neal and Sara

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Neal and Sara

“Wow!’ This charity gives one-to-one physiotherapy!

Myself and my husband, Neal, were sat with a nurse as she told us of the charity INS (Integrated Neurological Services) based in Twickenham, a number of years ago. Neal’s health had been in decline for years due to a brain tumour and having a stroke. He was 6’4” and 17 stone and had been having falls, a number of which had left him in hospital. Broken ribs, bruising and a nasty cut to the head made us realise we needed more support.

After his stroke, Neal had kindly been given six weeks of physiotherapy by the NHS. But when this had come to an end, they closed his file, leaving myself looking after a disabled husband in further physical decline. Neal clearly needed more physiotherapy as it had made a difference. His falls had stopped happening and he had better strength in his limbs. His balance had also improved, which made it easier to transfer him.

I was amazed when the nurse told us that this charity, INS, was able to give physiotherapy within the community. I knew it cost. Shortly after discovering INS, I was fortunate to meet a number of the management at a fundraising event (Sir Ranulph Fiennes was giving an inspirational talk on his expeditions). I immediately warmed to the team – previous CEO, Ann Bond, Ellie Kinnear the founder of INS and Belinda Canosa from fundraising spoke to me. They made it clear that in giving such a valuable service within the community, not only helped to keep their clients active and mobile for longer but also helped keep them  out of hospital, and costing the NHS. This also ensured a better quality of life and wellbeing. I liked what they had to say – in helping prevent physical and mental decline, they helped keep their clients safer.

Shortly after this, Neal was given a one-to-one programme by an INS physiotherapist and supported by regular sessions with Paul, an INS Rehabilitation Assistant. Each week he was exercised on a specialist physiotherapy bike, walked with help and had arm coordination exercises. These all helped strengthen different parts of his body as well as exercising his brain. Neal clearly enjoyed his time with Paul. Not only this, but it got Neal out of the house and stimulated him both physically and mentally.

For a short period of time in the summer, INS offered a range of activities and days out for their clients, including Nordic walking, canoeing gardening and even horse riding! I found this truly inspiring. INS was not focussing on their clients’ disabilities but on their abilities. They gave disabled and often isolated people the chance to try something new and to connect with others. As Neal was in a wheelchair, we were lucky enough to head out on a specially adapted boat – The Venturer, from Kingston for the day. It was wonderful. As Neal was unable to speak by this time, instead he gave a big thumbs up when I asked if he had enjoyed himself.

Another time I was at INS, I remember putting my head around the door of a music session which was in full swing. It made my heart melt. Different people with varying neurological disabilities were all singing and playing musical instruments together. There was such a great vibe and joy in the room. It was truly inspirational.

I will never forget what an older stroke client, Chris, said at an INS AGM, “When I found myself stuck at home after my stroke, I thought, well that’s it, my life is over. INS have changed all that and I now enjoy my days.”

Neal was also able take a place at a local day centre, jointly run by Homelink and INS. We paid a small fee and INS subsidised the rest. All the clients were in wheelchairs, interacting with each other whilst doing a variety of activities and exercises. Whilst Neal was at the day centre, this gave myself and other carers the chance of a break. I always ensured I did something enjoyable with this respite. I would meet a friend for lunch or go out for a walk.

Over the years, Neal declined further and for the last four years was mostly bed bound. INS still supported us and I will never forget him in music therapy and the therapist, Kate Feldschreiber, sang and played the piano to each one of the group in turn. When she sang to Neal, singing his name, he brought his hand up – the only way he could respond. Music can clearly reach anyone, even if you are severely disabled and unable to speak. Unbeknownst to myself and Neal, this was to be his last visit at INS. He passed away a week later from a another stroke.

If he were here, I know Neal would agree with me that both of us will always be truly grateful to INS for the love and crucial support we have received from them over the years.

I believe this charity should be rolled out nationally. If INS were to be gone tomorrow, the world would certainly be a darker and sadder place without them.

INS keep their clients’ active and mobile for longer, helping keep them out of hospital and saving the NHS.

by Sara Challice – carer for her husband, Neal (stroke client)