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Greek holiday a milestone in John’s rehab

At the age of 31, supported by Richardson Care, he has taken his first holiday and first plane journey

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In October, John* went on holiday to Greece supported by a member of staff from Richardson Care.

They flew from Luton to Heraklion in Crete and had the unavoidable holiday stresses of a crowded airport, flight delays (by four hours) and consequently arriving at their destination much later than expected.

This might not sound unusual, but for John, who has an acquired brain injury, it indicates just how far he’s come on his rehabilitation journey.

At the age of 31, John has taken his first foreign holiday, his first plane trip and had many new and enjoyable experiences.

Traumatic brain injury

John sustained a traumatic brain injury at the age of five, which affected all areas of the brain, and consequently has complex emotional and behavioural difficulties, experiences anxiety and also has a diagnosis of ADHD. 

After living with his family until his late teens, he had numerous placements until he was admitted to Richardson Care in 2017 at the age of 25. On admission, John presented with severe verbal aggression towards others, made threats of physical violence towards others and had also historically engaged in inappropriate behaviours and absconded.

In the six years that John has lived at Richardson Care, he has been supported to manage his emotions and behaviour, and has become a kind and helpful person who can be trusted to go out on their own.

Managing anxiety

Many people find air travel and crowded places stressful, especially if flights are delayed for several hours. If you combine this with an acquired brain injury, it highlights the extent of John’s achievement.

John was accompanied on the holiday by Senior Support Worker, Louise, who says: “In the airport when we were delayed for four hours, I could see the anxiety starting to kick in but I just distracted and redirected John by doing different things. He really enjoy watching planes land and take off and managed his anxiety really well.” 

Interesting and varied itinerary 

John and Louise planned the trip together in detail beforehand. John chose Crete as he is very interested in history and wanted to visit the ancient Greek palace of Knossos and other historical sites. They stayed in a large apartment complex in Chania for a week, where John enjoyed having his own apartment with a balcony. Louise stayed in an apartment close by.

John had a full and varied itinerary with lots of trips: The highlight was visiting Knossos, where they had a guided tour and John managed to maintain concentration for four hours, something that he has found difficult as a result of his brain injury. They took a boat trip from the beautiful Pirate Bay, visited an army base and a WWII bunker, visited an art museum, an olive oil distillery, took a sight-seeing trip on a tourist train and picked fresh oranges off the trees. John learnt a lot about the country and its culture and has many happy memories of the trip.

John says: “I really enjoyed the trip and it made me feel more independent. It made me feel that I can do things on my own. We had a good time, I want to go back and learn more about the country, or maybe go to Rome next year.”

Embracing the experience

Louise adds: “John really did throw himself into the holiday and did everything that I offered as an activity. He communicated well with the staff at the hotel but also with local people. John adjusted very well to the heat, which I was a little concerned about because even though it was October, it was still very warm – especially for someone who hadn’t left the UK before. 

“John also showed a good understanding of money and paying in euros didn’t faze him, often commenting on how much cheaper things were in Greece.”

Louise continues: “In England John is able to go to the shop on his own and this was something that I transferred to Greece as we were staying on a complex. I gave him a list of what he needed to buy and he managed each time without any problems”

When John and Louise arrived at the apartment complex in the early hours of the morning, they were just given a map and had to find their apartment amongst hundreds of others. Fortunately John has a good sense of direction and managed to find the apartments very easily, and carried Louise’s bags for her.

John also helped some older people who were on the boat trip as they had to cross some rocks to access the boat. John enjoyed chatting to the staff in the apartment complex, who were very friendly. When they were on the plane, John spent much of the time looking out of the window, and was delighted with one of the pilots came out of the cockpit and showed John on a map where they were.

John concludes: “I got used to travelling and would really like to do it again.”

John is a resident at The Richardson Mews in Northampton, a specialist brain injury rehabilitation and transitional service run by Richardson Care. For more information go to www.richardsoncares.co.uk or call 01604 791266.

*The name of the service user has been changed to protect their identity.

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