Disabled man's fears of Christmas alone

CHRISTMAS is usually a time for families and friends to come together and embrace the festive spirit.But for David Marshall, it will be a far from happy time, as he is dreading being on his own.

CHRISTMAS is usually a time for families and friends to come together and embrace the festive spirit.

But for David Marshall, it will be a far from happy time, as he is dreading being on his own.

The 59-year-old wheelchair user, who lives in Adams Place, Grange Farm, Kesgrave, is desperate to spend it with friends in his former Essex private care home but cannot afford the weekly fees of £730 himself.

Mr Marshall, originally from Nottingham, was once a proud 6ft continental coach driver who lived out of a suitcase. However serious blood clots in his arteries, caused by a 40-a-day smoking habit, have left him without any legs.

His one wish for Christmas was to be with his friends at Mid Meadows care home in Frinton. Though Suffolk County Council said it cannot fund his stay at the home, staff were looking into providing other options for him in a bid to alleviate his unhappiness.

He said: “I'm not trying to look for pity and I don't want to be a charity case but I have nobody.

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“I have been watching lots of television and it is all about Christmas and people with their families. I am dreading it.

“All I want is to go to Mid Meadows for a few weeks to get back on track.”

Mr Marshall's first amputation was in 2003 and due to complications he could not wear a false leg. On release from hospital, he stayed in Mid Meadows and it was there that he found a sense of home and lifelong friends.

After getting his confidence back, he then moved to an adapted property in Colchester but at his request was moved to a similar style place in Kesgrave. The amputation of his second leg this year plunged him into depression again and it is a mental lift from his old friends that he craves, particularly at this time of year.

A carer comes to his home once each morning and once in the evening, and he also pays someone do shopping for him once a week.

Mr Marshall's days are consumed by watching television and smoking, as he is too afraid to venture outside because of his panic attacks which were triggered by an incident last year. He even bought a car in 2006 but has barely driven it through sheer fear of going outside.

He added: “I know the smoking is killing me but I have nothing else to do. I have not been out of the house since last Christmas.

“When I went into town after my other leg was taken off, a mother saw my scab and asked me to cover it up because it scared her child. Since then, I haven't got out. I'm sick of life at the moment.”

Can you help Mr Marshall this Christmas? Do you have ideas of what he can do? Call the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County councillor for adult and community services, said: “I sympathise absolutely with Mr Marshall, and especially at this time of year, when many of us are lucky enough to have family around us. I know he appreciates the personal care we arrange for him, with two care visits morning and night seven days a week. However, we would like to do more for him, even if it turns out that we are not allowed to fund social respite care for him if he doesn't meet our criteria.

“What I am doing, is making sure that our professional staff continue to work with him to look at every possible opportunity for social activities, perhaps by approaching local voluntary organisations. I wish him very well, and salute his courage in life. I'm sure that together we will be able to offer him more opportunities.”

Colin Poole, chief executive at Optua, Suffolk's disability charity, said: “Christmas can be a difficult time for disabled people living on their own. Many of the activities and services for older people which continue into the holiday period may not be appropriate for younger disabled people.

“However, there are often things going on which might encourage people to get out of their home and socialise with other people so our advice to disabled people would be to try and find out what is available. Try talking to other people and make some phone calls and you may discover there is something happening which you can take part in.”

Every year Age Concern Suffolk finds out about groups who are organising Christmas Day events in their local communities. They then have a choice of ideas to offer when senior citizens, who are anticipating being alone during the Christmas period.

For ideas, call Age Concern's Ipswich office on 01473 257039 or call in at 8 Northgate Street, Ipswich to find out more. They are open on Monday between 9am and 1pm.

The charity also runs a befriending scheme to provide friendship and support for older people who feel lonely or isolated.