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When Maggie - one of Westmead’s customers passed away, her husband bought the service a recliner chair in her memory (The photo is of Heather, a customer, trying it out). He also wrote a moving tribute to Maggie which we have published below:

“When Maggie was first told about Westmead by a social worker, just before discharge from Neurorehab in March 2005, she didn’t seem very enthusiastic. Maggie had a huge haemorrhagic stroke in May 2004, which she only survived through the superb medical care at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. After that, she had left side paralysis and left side neglect, required a wheelchair (which she drove with one hand and one foot), hoist transfers, and 24 hour care. Before her stroke, she had lived a highly active life of university and college teaching, writing, walking and travelling. As the social worker tried to ‘sell’ Maggie the idea of Westmead, Maggie suspected that this might be a place where people with disabilities were quietly ‘parked’. However, she decided to give it a go.

What she found at Westmead was a total contrast to her previous misgivings. Westmead was a cheerful, welcoming place where people with disabilities were completely equal and accepted. Whereas in the outside world of cafes and supermarkets a person in a wheelchair can sometimes be regarded as an inconvenience, an obstacle, someone only just about tolerated, at Westmead she was positively welcomed. The building was set up to enable people to manoeuvre their own wheelchairs, instead of always being pushed by someone else. No-one needed to apologise for their slower speech or any other disability, because everyone was equal. Westmead had a fully accessible kitchen, which meant that Maggie could once again cook, while supported to ensure safety. Being the cook, who put the food on the table, had always meant a lot to Maggie, and being able to resume that, even for one day a week, gave her a great boost. It also gave us ideas for what might work in the conversion of our own kitchen at home to make it accessible, so there was a double benefit.

At Westmead, Maggie rediscovered painting, which she had not done since childhood. With the frustrations of disability, she was looking for an outlet, and painting provided that. Westmead gave her support for painting that I could never have managed at home. She enjoyed watercolour painting and painting pottery which was then glazed and fired in the Westmead kiln. Of course, normal painting classes exist out in the ‘able-bodied’ world, but these places cannot provide the essential personal care support, with proper respect for dignity, which is an integral part of the Westmead service.

Each time I waved to Maggie as she boarded the ASP transport to Westmead, she was looking forward to her day. She continued to fully enjoy it right up to August 2017, when a major lung infection set back her health, and from which she did not fully recover.

Westmead has the accessible facilities, the trained and welcoming staff, and the personal-care support for complex needs. This allowed Maggie to participate in creative activities, stimulating outings and socialising with her peers. Maggie had very complex needs after her stroke, and Westmead truly brightened up her life.”    

For more information about Westmead, please contact Kim.davis@optalis.org                    

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