How brain injury specialist Ashlie helps survivors on ‘journey of recovery’
- Credit: Archant
It can be one of the most debilitating injuries we can face – not only causing pain and suffering, but affecting your personality and even the ability to lead a normal life.
Yet while they cannot take away the trauma of what has happened, occupational therapists like Ipswich’s Ashlie Meadows can help survivors with the practical day-to-day reality of living with a brain injury.
The specialist support Ashlie and her colleagues can offer at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry is a world away from the hospital ward they were first admitted to following an accident or stroke.
Sue Ryder and Ipswich Hospital joined forces with Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to set up The Chantry in 2018, response to growing numbers of people needing treatment for neurological conditions.
While hospitals do fantastic - and life-saving – work in the immediate aftermath of a head trauma, The Chantry’s purpose-built neurological rehabilitation facility allows them to provide “tailored care” for patients to take steps back to normality.
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Having started with just three rooms providing intensive therapy, The Chantry was later given the go-ahead to expand to a 32-bed centre.
There are purpose-built facilities for their six to 12-week stay, including their own room with wet room attached – giving patients the space and privacy they might not get in a hospital for washing and dressing.
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But perhaps even more important than is the personalised care that is only possible with dedicated time - which has helped patients regain the ability to walk and move, as well as regain their social skills and confidence.
“Everyday tasks like making breakfast are often skills that our clients need help with,” said Ashlie.
“We had one gentleman who I would meet every morning and walk with him to our purpose-built rehab kitchen.
“I would be with him whilst he made his porridge, then we would go together to the dining room to eat.
“This is an activity many of us take for granted, but meant to so much to him.”
Ashlie added that, as well as day-to-day tasks, there is also an unseen side to an occupational therapist’s role.
“What people often don’t realise is that cognitive rehabilitation is a large part of our job too,” she said.
“Some neurological conditions mean that people need support to work on things like their imagination or flexibility of thinking.”
For example, one activity she set a patient was a set of written instructions to make a series of letters and shapes out of salt dough.
“I liked the idea of being able to really get to know people and to make a long-lasting difference,” said Ashlie, who said the opportunity to work closely with colleagues was a key motivation for taking on the role.
“I was also very aware from my previous job that there was a desperate need for the sort of specialist care the neuro-rehabilitation facility at The Chantry was providing.
“Although I had some experience of working with neurological conditions, I wouldn’t have considered myself a specialist when I arrived at the centre.
“However, I love learning new things and was delighted to find myself amongst a friendly and supportive multi-disciplinary team. We all learn and work together to ensure the best outcome for the clients.”
“This is a really interesting job, and so important, because the sorts of things we do in Occupational Therapy are what make all of us manage in everyday life.”
She sums up her job as “to help people along their journey of recovery, supporting them to be able to do what they need to do, to be able to live their lives”.
If you would like to find out more about working for Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry, visit sueryder.org/jobs