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Inpatient neuro rehab

‘Accept, recognise and celebrate every achievement’

How Nigel Pickering overcame Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) to thrive and set new ambitions



‘My next target is climbing a Lakeland fell’

That is the ambition of Nigel Pickering, an ‘expert by experience’ who progressed from being bed-bound to completing a charity 5k walk within just 18 months, with support from Askham Rehab – and who returned to share his inspirational story with the community.

Nigel was initially diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in June 2021. After a three-week stay in the hospital, Nigel was admitted to Askham Rehab.

At the time of his admission, he had very limited mobility but started to see progress once he was assessed by the Askham multidisciplinary team.

In mid-July 2021 Nigel’s condition and mobility deteriorated. The Askham Rehab team quickly initiated an emergency response and Nigel was taken back to the hospital where this time he was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). 

After being discharged from the hospital, Nigel returned to Askham Rehab where he stayed until November 2021. Throughout his time spent at the rehab centre, he impressed his rehab team with his dedication and motivation. 

After his return home, Nigel continued to be motivated and worked on improving his strength and mobility. Building on the progress he made while being at Askham Rehab, he improved his ability to stand and then slowly started to walk again with the help of his wife and his physiotherapist. 

Reflecting on that period of his life, Nigel recalls: “The key things for me on this journey and how I have approached them have been about accepting the reality and recognising and celebrating every single achievement, no matter how small they may seem. 

“I was only able to start dealing with things when I accepted the reality of what had happened to me, then I was able to start dealing with it, making plans to try and make things better rather than complaining about and focussing on what I had lost and what had changed. It opened up a whole new path to follow, so far leading to where I am today.”

Nigel Pickering with his wife and Luke Cook, head of rehab at Askham Rehab

Over the next 18 months, Nigel increased the number of steps and the distance that he could walk until the point when he felt up to a challenge: to complete a five-kilometre charity walk. The target for the fundraising was to collect £1,000 to support research of his condition through the GAIN charity.

Nigel admits that it was a considerable challenge: “It took me three and a half hours to complete the five laps. I did it though. Tired and with muscles feeling the strain I stopped to take a breather on the final lap. 

“At the finish line I was greeted by most of the same crowd who had remained from the start, enjoying the party, eating burgers and drinking my beer!” 

At the end of the day, he was way over his target of raising £1,000 with more than £4,500 donated for his cause. 

After the 5k walk in June, Nigel returned to Askham Rehab at the end of July to share his story with the community to which he belongs while also giving the chance to the audience to ask particular questions during a Q&A session. 

Marking a year from his Askham discharge, Nigel said: “Looking back is not something I make a habit of doing. No point looking where you have been when you are on a journey. It’s always better to look where you are heading and at where you want to get to. 

“On this occasion though it is nice to take a little peek. I couldn’t have done what I have done so far without the start you and all at Askham gave me. I am very grateful for this.”

The experience of going back in time was cathartic for both Nigel and all the members of the community who joined the event: residents, relatives and staff members. Discussing with someone who has gone through so many ups and downs and who managed in the end to see such big improvements is for sure motivational.

Highlighting the importance of a person-centred care in any rehab journey, Luke Cook, head of rehab and nursing at Askham Rehab, says: “We as healthcare professionals in the rehab environment can sometimes focus on our domain of the pathway, with the identity and human at the centre of the unexpected adjustment being left behind. 

“This reflection was extremely eye opening and we cannot wait for our next opportunity to learn from those who use our service.”

Former resident Nigel Pickering returning to Askham Rehab

Askham Rehab is part of Askham Village Community, a family-run community with a rehabilitation service that has transformed the lives of many individuals, and its remote setting is the perfect place to approach any personal challenge — big or small. With the latest robotic equipment and state-of-the-art gym and hydrotherapy equipment, it is leading the way in the local area for rehabilitation services.

During the Q&A session, Nigel himself realised the importance of celebrating every little achievement, once he was asked by an Askham Rehab resident about his capacity to keep himself motivated.

“I thought that was a really good question, something I hadn’t really given a great deal of thought to before,” he says. 

“It made me realise that I do get excited by seemingly trivial things like the first time I put my socks on without using the sock puller and standing up and being able to put pants on without having to sit down. 

“Both just everyday events most people can do without thinking but for me, having lost the ability to do this for a couple of years, a significant step forward.”

While reflecting on the past, Nigel is motivated to continue his journey by setting a new target for himself.

“I think in any progression there is always the need for some reflection, just not an obsession with looking to the past,” he says. 

“I could link that to my next target of climbing a Lakeland fell. I can remember how difficult and painful going uphill can be but when you rest and look where you have walked it is always surprising just how far you have climbed and this then inspires you to carry on until you get to the top and can look out and down on the world.”

To support Nigel’s 5k fundraising, visit here. 

For more information on Askham Rehab, please visit the website by clicking here. Askham is always welcoming new residents and staff into its growing community. For further details, please contact 01354 740269.