One of Northwick Park Hospital’s most respected units showed it had plenty of (exercise) balls when it celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The Regional Hyper-acute Rehabilitation Unit is one of only a handful of specialist units in the UK helping patients recover from the most severe brain injuries and other significant acquired neurological conditions.
The 24 bed unit has helped more than 2,000 patients since it opened its doors in 1993 and is recognised as centre of excellence with RHRU staff travelling as far afield as Australia and the United Arab Emirates to share their skills.
Its two longest serving members of staff are Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes and Head of Therapies Hilary Rose who have been with the unit since it opened.
Hilary said: “The unit has grown in size and takes patients with more complex needs. Our job is to help those with significant impairments to recover as much as possible, to maximise their abilities and improve their quality of life”.
“We take people with a wide range of neurological conditions from stroke patients to people involved in serious road accidents helping them regain basic skills that we all take for granted like speech, movement and the ability to swallow and eat."
A recent patient was Ben Spires who hopes to complete a degree in maths and economics after a stroke cut short his university education.
The 18 year-old was enjoying his first summer break when he collapsed at the family home in Harlow, Essex.
Ben said: “I felt like someone flicked a switch in my head. One second I was fine, the next it was like someone had driven a nail through my head. Everything was a blur after that.”
Ben’s parents managed to get him downstairs where he was rushed to the specialist stroke unit at Queen’s Hospital, Romford.
His mother Kelly says the emergency services decision to bypass their local hospital in favour of Queen’s probably saved her son’s life.
He subsequently underwent four life-saving procedures before being transferred to Northwick Park.
Ben added: “It was frustrating but I learnt to take it a step at a time. I moved from a wheelchair to a walking frame within a few weeks and they had me going down to the shop and buying stuff as part of my therapy.”
Staff said Ben’s positive attitude aided his recovery and he was later allowed home at weekends.
“It was a great incentive to get better. The team were always there for me and my psychologist really helped me come to terms with what had happened and focus on where I wanted to be moving forward.”