A lightning moment of clarity for two Garstang businesswomen

Two women whose fathers suffered the life changing events of being struck by lightning and having a mental breakdown say their experiences have been influential in their lives and career choices.

Fran Costello and Gill Newhouse outside Gill Newhouse Podiatry and Aha Moment
Fran Costello and Gill Newhouse outside Gill Newhouse Podiatry and Aha Moment

A lightning bolt and a mental breakdown have been so influential on Gill Newhouse and Fran Costello, they have not only shaped their lives, but their career choices.

When lightning hit Gill’s father Ken Townsend on the day of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, he was lucky to be alive.

But it left him paraplegic and uncertain whether he would be able to have children.

Fran Costello

Meanwhile, when Fran was 11, she came home to witness her dad, Brian, suffering from a mental breakdown.

Decades later the women have joined forces to provide a ‘top to toe’ wellbeing service in Thomas Weind, Garstang.

Fran, a practicing psychotherapist for 17 years, delivers organisational therapy and one-on-one psychotherapy via her business Aha Moment, whilst Gill offers podiatry and skin surgeries through Gill Newhouse Podiatry.

Gill, who grew up in Irlam, Manchester, says: “Everyone had the day off for the Queen’s Coronation Day and my dad was playing in a charity cricket match.

Gill Newhouse with her dad Ken Townsend

“There was a summer storm and everyone ran into the pavilion for shelter. Lightening struck and hit my dad and three others. His three friends died but a doctor was able to give my dad CPR. He was rushed to hospital and had his left leg amputated. His other leg is paraplegic.

“In fact, his consultant was Sir John Charnley, who is know for coming up with the hip operation, so he was certainly in very good hands.

“He was in his twenties and doctors said he would never be able to walk, but he did. Doctors also said he would never have children, but a year later, I was born.

“I have never known anything other than living with someone who is disabled. I spent most of my childhood caring for my dad and helping with his gait and helping him to walk.

Fran Costello with her parents when she was around 11

“He never let his disability stop him doing things. He was able to get a job as an industrial chemist at the Co-Operative Soapworks in Irlam.

“My dad’s disability affected how I looked at the world and my career.

“I left home and moved to Preston. I missed caring for my dad so I took employment at Leonard Cheshire and became a care manager.

“After 20 years I decided I wanted to do something more physical to help people. I had always been interested in gait and how people walk.

Gill Newhouse

“I got into a degree course in podiatry in Salford and completed my degree. I then worked for the NHS for seven years, mainly at Over Wyre Medical Centre in Preesall until I had to give up as I was suffering from chronic migraines.

“After two years I decided to go into private work and six years ago I opened up a podiatry clinic in Garstang and in Knott End.”

Gill successfully expanded her Knott End site, employing six members of staff and then relocated her Garstang clinic to Thomas Weind.

She specialises in getting people the right support to walk properly, gait, and she has the latest technology and the only laser machine in the area which helps with the healing of skin surgeries.

When a friend mentioned they knew a psychotherapist who needed a base, Gill immediately agreed to a new arm to her business.

She adds: “I have a lot of regular clients and so we have build up some strong relationships. They talk to me for a long period of time. A lot of my clients are over 70 and are suffering bereavement and struggling to adapt to being on their own. They are feeling lonely and depressed so it is nice for them to know they have somewhere familiar to go. We are looking after people from top to toe.”

Fran Costello

In a similar manner, Fran’s dad’s illness inspired her to take interest in how the brain works.

She says: “When I was 11 I came home from school and my dad was lying on the sofa not moving. I didn’t know what was going on and phoned an ambulance. When I visited him in hospital he said he didn’t have any children,

“He had been made redundant when Courtaulds factory in Preston closed down and the shock of it had tipped him over the edge.

“When I got home I found an encyclopedia and read up on the brain and what a nervous breakdown was. It was fascinating that something in the brain could make you do that.

“He took a year to get out of it and he went to university and worked in inorganic chemistry.

“With a big interest in how the brain worked, I did my A-levels in the three 'ologies', including psychology. I completed a degree in applied social studies, post graduate in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and most recently an MSc in organisational psychology.

“I have worked all over the world with teams in organisations who are experiencing work issues and with individuals who would like to experience better mental health.

“The name of the business comes from the phrase aha moment, which happens when you are more relaxed and the brain is able to think more clearly and come up with the answer. When information comes to the brain it goes to the prefrontal cortex. If you need to be creative you use your right hand side. If you need to process information you use the left.

“I look at stress management within companies who have issues such as heavy workload, not enough support, friction amongst colleagues and deliver a programme. I do a pre survey diagnosis before I go there to see what I am working with.

“People come to see me one-on-one. They might have anxiety, stress, are depressed, suffering from a relationship breakup or suffering from a long term illness.

“I work with anyone who has an issue.”

Gill Newhouse with her dad Ken Townsend
Fran Costello with her parents when she was around 11
Gill Newhouse