In memory of José
The morning of 25th of April 2015 started as any other for José and Katie: he was heading out with the dog while she set off to work. But before Katie arrived at her office, her husband had fallen off his mountain bike and was fighting for his life. He landed on his head – cracking his helmet. He couldn’t move and was struggling to breathe.
His dog, Bradley, barked to attract the attention of a passerby who called 999. The London's Air Ambulance fast response car was dispatched as well as crews from the London Ambulance Service and José was treated for critical injuries including a cracked skull and crushed spine. Jose was then taken to The Royal London Hospital.
Katie says: “The doctors prepared us for the worst, they hadn’t seen anyone survive this level of injury before. But José was strong and very fit, he was conscious and breathing when they admitted him.”
Above: José had a very active lifestyle before his accident
“And as each hour and day passed his chances of survival became greater.”
Just a year after their wedding, José and Katie’s life changed almost overnight. José was now tetraplegic – unable to move his arms or legs – but was able to return home. Sadly a year after the accident, Jose died unexpectedly.
Katie says: “Without the initial response of the air ambulance crew and the LAS crews, we would certainly have lost José a year earlier and wouldn't have had a chance to share all the experiences and precious times that we did.”
“I don’t know how José got through those early days – but I know that if he could have done a deal with a higher power or a guardian angel he would have asked for time to say good bye. And it was truly a miracle that we got that time.”
Katie, who began a blog to record her husband’s recovery and rehabilitation, continued to write about her experiences to help others going through similar challenges.
Katie kindly shares the ‘lessons learnt’ throughout that equally heart-warming and heart-breaking year
“When it came to discharge we were told José would have 10 days medication sent home with him, and that he'd get free prescriptions. It isn't automatic, and there is a form that needs to be completed by a doctor. It took a few weeks for this to come through and could've been done in the hospital. If it hadn't been for an understanding chemist we could've spent £100 in prescription charges just in the first week.”
“The hospital helped with benefits but it's definitely worth applying for everything you can as soon as possible because it all takes time. As well as the free prescriptions we had a reduction in council tax, blue badge parking, reduced taxi fares, local borough disabled discount card and free travel on public transport (for José but not his carer).”
“One of the first things we did when we finally had time together was to map out José's priorities as a man not a patient. You'll find that every doctor, therapist and well-meaning visitor will have their opinion and after months of being a patient you've forgotten how to set your own priorities. We divided life in to Home, Social, Physical and Work - chosen by José in that order. We then wrote down keywords for each section and made a rudimentary poster that we reviewed regularly. It helped us both retain focus and track progress.
“Don't be afraid to say when something doesn't work. This is particularly true when it comes to the care package. We by no means had found the solution and were still looking for the right carers and an appropriate number of hours of care. But what we had found was the right carer made an immeasurable difference to both of us.”
Despite the sad outcome, Katie reflects on their last year together with gratitude, cherishing every moment she could spend with her husband: “A year in which he proved that disability doesn't have to stop you living life. A year in which he inspired so many people. He was a warrior to the end and now he's free to run, cycle and climb in our hearts.”
You can read more on Katie’s blog