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Meet the teddy bear helping young visitors at The Walton Centre understand complex rehabilitation

1 year ago

Meet the teddy bear helping young visitors at The Walton Centre understand complex rehabilitation

In April 2022, James from Warrington was struggling down his own garden path to get his neighbours attention, so they could call him an ambulance – he was suffering from a Stroke, which was caused by a massive bleed on the brain. 

James was stabilised in Whiston Hospital and then immediately transferred to The Walton Centre for lifesaving surgery and treatment.

After spending weeks in intensive care, James woke up and found that he could only blink and use his big toe to communicate. 

He said: “When I woke up I knew I had been through something lifechanging. For two months I was unable to communicate much at all, but Annie, one of the Speech and Language Therapists, assessed me and found I could do basic communication [using a switch and an alphabet chart]. Working with the amazing team I was able to tell my wife I love her. It was a very emotional time.”  

NHS Walton Centre

Working with Annie Newcomen on his rehabilitation journey, James was able to communicate more and more using specialist methods, and finally have visitors.  

For a large part of James’ rehabilitation, he had a tracheostomy (a tube inserted into the windpipe to help him breathe), which unsettled his young children and became difficult to explain. 

James continued: “The kids would come and visit and be upset about all the different tubes and things I had attached to my body. The tracheostomy in my neck was particularly distressing for them and I couldn’t tell them properly that I was ok and it was actually helping. My Speech and Language Therapists, saw this and leapt into action!” 

Speech and Language Therapist Charlotte Lawrence and Therapy Assistant Emma Cottier saw there was a way to support James and his young family – with a teddy bear.  

Charlotte said: “The team had been discussing ways that we could facilitate James’ children coming into the hospital, to support his rehabilitation and make it a less scary experience for them. Emma’s daughter very generously donated one of her teddy bears to the ward. We gave the teddy bear a tracheostomy, similar to that of James’. We also provided James’ wife Claire with some information resources put together by our Rehab Network Parenting Group, so she could sit down and work through these with their children at home.” 

The Walton Centre
James Gilbert and family

James said: “The Tracheostomy Ted was a gamechanger. My daughters were less anxious about it because they’d played with the teddy and talked about it with my wife. It meant that we could have proper visits and I could enjoy their company without having to answer loads of questions about it. I was finally able to get some hugs!

“The team at The Walton Centre are amazing. They could see we were struggling as a family and exceeded expectations by creating Tracheostomy Ted and the resources. I honestly think it helped with my rehabilitation too, because it was one less thing to worry about. I can’t thank them enough.” 

Once James’ children felt more confident in coming onto the ward, the multidisciplinary team arranged therapy sessions involving James’ children. The sessions included games and activities that encouraged interaction and play, whilst being tailored to James’ therapy goals. 

The Gilbert family were the first to use Tracheostomy Ted, and as part of the Rehab Network Parenting Group, Charlotte and Emma are working with The Walton Centre Charity to create more resources to help young family members understand brain injury and be included in the rehabilitation journey. 

Visit The Walton Centre website here.



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