Maggie Bateman spent most of her working life caring for people and aimed to enhance the lives of those more disadvantaged than herself. However, her career came to an end after she was attacked by a resident with autism leaving her with a fractured spine. She tells AASMA DAY her story and how she has finally secured a settlement to help her with her recovery
It came completely out of the blue and the forceful kick sent Maggie Bateman catapulting five feet across the room and she was thrown against a brick wall with impact.
The sheer force of the blow made her bang her head and she crumpled to the floor coming close to losing consciousness and couldn’t even move to get back up.
Maggie, now 64, who lives in Longridge, near Preston, recalls: “This resident just suddenly turned on me and attacked me.
“You learn to recognise all the signs of a person and if you feel their behaviour is getting heightened, you can distract them using different methods.
“But this attack came completely out of the blue so we had no chance to diffuse the situation.”
Maggie was a support worker at Willow Lodge Care Home in Gorfield, Cambridgeshire at the time of the attack which forced her into early retirement.
Maggie, a mum-of-two and a grandmother-of-three instructed specialist serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her accident and whether more could have been done by her employers to prevent it.
Despite a continued denial of liability from Cambian Learning Disabilities Ltd, following negotiations between the parties, a £60,000 settlement was agreed for Maggie to cover the pain and suffering caused by her injuries.
Maggie today spoke out about the incident which massively changed her life and turned her into a shadow of her former self.
However, Maggie emphatically wants to make clear that she in no way blames the autistic resident who launched the attack against her but believes her employers should have taken steps to protect her, particularly as she had already voiced her concerns.
And she wants to make sure lessons are learned from the incident so something similar doesn’t happen to someone else and that they aren’t attacked in the line of duty leaving a lasting impact on their life.
Maggie first began working in care at the age of 22 and had a real affinity for caring for people and loved her job.
She explains: “I just had a real rapport with people and liked looking after people who were disadvantaged.
“I wanted to enhance their lives as best I could.”
Over the years, Maggie worked with people with learning difficulties, autism and substance misuse and was a senior team manager at a home for people with learning difficulties.
Maggie and her husband Stewart moved to Lincolnshire, but only a month later, the couple were dealt a major blow when Stewart was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and specialists gave him a prognosis of six years.
Maggie did not work for four years as she devoted her time to caring for her husband.
However, when Stewart was strong enough, Maggie began looking for jobs online and found the job at Willow Lodge Care Home and was successful in getting the job.
The care home was a residential facility for young adults with autism and Maggie was employed as a senior support worker at the time of the accident.
She and other staff were aware that the resident had been violent in the past but Maggie claims no steps had been taken by management to transfer the resident to a more suitable facility or to provide any additional training to better protect staff if a further violent situation was to occur.
Maggie says: “The facility I was working in, they did not give us supine training.
“This means manually handling people and getting them down to the floor.
“We were told it was not necessary to be trained in this.
“In my opinion, if we had been trained in this, myself and other colleagues would not have sustained the injuries we did.”
Maggie began working at the care home in January five years ago and the attack happened the following May.
Around the time of the incident, the home was slowly closing down and there was only this one resident left in the home and it was a case of waiting for him to be transferred to another facility before the house was closed.
Maggie says: “Because the unit he was in was folding down, there were a lot of changes and this particular resident did not like noise or strange faces around him.
“As the facility was winding down, there were a lot of strangers coming in to look around the place
“We were trying to shield this resident as much as we could, but he did not understand what we were trying to say and he started lashing out and his behaviour was heightening.
“I voiced my concerns and told management this resident needed to be moved sooner rather than later.
“But they did not listen.”
On the day of the attack, Maggie was suddenly kicked by the resident and the force threw her five feet across the room on to a brick wall.
Maggie recalls: “He suddenly grabbed me and kicked me.
“I was extremely scared as I had never been attacked before in my life.
“I banged my head and was close to losing consciousness and I could not even move to get back off the floor.
“I was very frightened as I knew once this person got you down, he would come back for you.
“My colleague called on the intercom for people to come and help get me to a room of safety.
“The resident had to be manhandled to be taken out of the house and into the garden.”
Maggie sustained injuries including a fractured vertebra in her spine from the force of hitting the wall.
She was forced to rest and wear a back brace for nine months and underwent brain scans as well as having physiotherapy to help her become more mobile.
Maggie was forced to take early retirement and has since suffered psychological symptoms as a result of the attack.
Maggie says: “After my accident, I was really shaken up and my back pain was terrible. I am still on painkillers now.
“I have not been able to work since then because of the pain in my back and I know I would not be able to do the job that I loved doing. I have also got arthritis in my spine and this has been compounded by what happened.
“I have limited mobility and I cannot stand or walk for long periods of time.
“I can only walk short distances and whenever I plan to go anywhere, I have to make sure there will be somewhere for me to sit down.
“I have a dog and I take him to the park as I know I can sit on a bench.
“I am fortunate in that I have recovered to some extent but I still suffer from a lot of pain and I can’t live my life as I would like to.
“I do not hold the resident who attacked me responsible. This was not his fault and I have never blamed him. He had his own problems and it was the atmosphere and situation he was caught up in that made him do it. If they had moved this person earlier like I recommended, this would not have happened.
“While I don’t blame the resident involved, I feel my accident was preventable and that my employers really should have upped their game to protect both myself and the other staff placed in a similar position.
“We should have been given more training on how to deal with potentially violent individuals and I just hope the company has now learnt from this and will make sure other care workers are now given better support in such situations.”
Maggie’s husband Stewart, who she had been with for 29 years and married him 16 years ago, lost his battle for life in March 2014.
As Maggie was living on her own in a cottage and could not drive, she moved to Longridge to be near her daughter.
Maggie says: “My husband supported me in fighting for this case and he was the one who was there for me all those nights when I couldn’t sleep or woke up screaming.
“Sadly he died before this settlement was agreed.
“My legal team at Irwin Mitchell were very understanding and sympathetic with me through a difficult time in my life and I am pleased my case has now been finalised and I can move on with the rest of my life. There was no neglect on my part and I followed policies and procedures and did the best job I could.
“I do not want what happened to me happen to anyone else, particularly a young person as it could ruin their life, especially if the injuries are worse.
“I want this company to look at their health and safety procedures and make sure they look after their staff properly.
“The surgeon who examined my back told me that if the injury had been a fraction away from where it was, I would have ended up in a wheelchair or been partially paralysed.”
A spokesman for the Cambian Group said: “Our staff safety is as important to us as the safety of the people in our care. “However, given the complex needs of these people, it is unfortunate that incidents like this can occasionally happen. We are sorry Maggie was injured, we always learn from these situations to try to reduce the chances of them happening again.”