A dog is definitely a man’s best friend in Colin Tipping’s eyes as his Jack Russell Terrier Jack has helped him rebuild his life after he suffered a major brain injury which almost killed him.
He tells Aasma Day how his dog and help from a specialist support service has put him back on the road to recovery.
As Colin Tipping lovingly strokes his dog Jack, he feels a fierce sense of relief as he knows that, by rights, he shouldn’t be alive.
Colin, 58, who lives in Fulwood, Preston, had his life change dramatically in the blink of an eye after he fell and hit his head on a kerb sustaining a brain injury which changed his personality.
Colin’s head injury was so severe, he was in a coma for six weeks and doctors told those who knew Colin that he was dying and to say their goodbyes.
Miraculously, Colin recovered but has spent the last four years since the accident learning how to communicate and walk without aid.
I got Jack when he was eight weeks old and he is now two-and-a-half and has been an amazing help to me in my recovery
Colin, who admits he had problems with drugs and alcohol for years, says he suffered his fall around four years ago when he was living in Chorley after drinking heavily.
He simply tripped and banged his head, but it led to devastating and lasting consequences.
Colin explains: “I was in a coma for six weeks and was dying. I should have died, but I didn’t.
“I fell over after drinking beer and hurt my head. I wasn’t bleeding or anything, but the damage was severe.
“The doctors tried everything to save me and I had to have brain surgery. But they didn’t think I would make it.
“The doctor and priest actually told everyone I was dying and to say their goodbyes.
“But somehow, I lived. I should not be here.”
Colin, who describes himself as someone who was a free spirit and spent years travelling across Europe picking grapes and digging up potatoes, has developed a personality disorder which causes trust issues and paranoia as a result of his brain injury.
Colin says: “If I got a slap to my head or a bang, it could kill me.
“I always wear hats when I am out.”
Colin has been working with Preston-based Community Life Choices for more than 18 months and has gradually been able to regain his independence and take back responsibility for his life.
He is currently living in sheltered accommodation but is in the process of moving out into a flat.
Colin says: “The people living in the sheltered accommodation are a lot older than me and I feel I should be in my own place. But I wasn’t capable of this before.
“Now I have had help from Community Life Choices, I feel more in control of my life.”
Colin firmly believes his canine companion, a Jack Russell Terrier aptly named Jack, has given him a reason to live and changed his life positively.
While Colin used to spend most of his days at home, since getting Jack, he and his pet spend a lot of their time outdoors in the park.
Colin says: “I got Jack when he was eight weeks old and he is now two-and-a-half and has been an amazing help to me in my recovery.
“He is my best friend and companion and gives me something to get up for.
“I would love to move into a house with a garden so Jack can have somewhere to go outside whenever he wants.”
Colin, who is a dad-of-four, confesses that his heavy use of drink and drugs in the past alienated the people around him and he has not seen his family for years.
He has grandchildren but has never seen them and has no addresses for his children.
He says: “I was very bad with drugs and alcohol and made everyone turn away from me.
“I am not in touch with my family, apart from recently my brother.
“I have now been clean for years and want to build bridges.”
Colin says having Jack and getting support from Community Life Choices has proved pivotal in helping Colin rebuild relationships with his brother and he is now hoping he will one day be able to do the same with his children.
Colin says: “I wanted support that didn’t dictate my independence but would help with tasks both large and small.
“Thanks to Community Life Choices, I’m now able to complete every day jobs such as shopping, housework and medication management.
“I am very grateful to them for helping me achieve my goals and I really hope I am able to build bridges with my children in the future.”
Yvonne Travis is one of the personal assistants at Community Life Choices who supports Colin.
She says: “Colin gets support from different personal assistants and gets two visits a day for half-an-hour.
“The reason we support Colin is because he is on medication and we administer his medicine and offer general care such as helping with cooking.
“As a result of his brain injury, Colin gets anxious and paranoid and he worries about any form of knocking and often hears knocking when no one else can.
“He sees his brother but does not see his sons or grandchildren and hopes to change this in the future.
“We help to support clients such as Colin and help them move to different properties and help make them more independent and live their lives.
“We try to put them back on the road to recovery.”
Colin adds: “I feel like I have a new life and my dog Jack has played a big part in this.
“He has been a massive help to me and I think he is great.”
Acquired brain injuries (ABI)
Every 90 seconds, someone is admitted to hospital with an acquired brain injury (ABI).
A blow to the head from a fall, assault or road traffic collision is the leading cause.
ABIs are also the number one cause of disability in people under the age of 45.
Recovery is often a lifelong challenge which varies from person to person.
Peter Sanderson, a director and clinical lead at Preston-based PSP, launched the company which specialises in paediatric and neuro rehabilitation.
Peter says he started the company in response to a lack of consistent intervention to improve a person’s quality of life.
Peter says: “Many of us fret about the ‘what ifs’, but when a life altering event does occur, it takes us unawares.
“Our team put the client and their family at the centre of everything to ensure the very best quality of life.
“Life with ABI can often feel like a long, lonely road but PSP assist every step of the way.
“Navigating litigation departments can be mind boggling, but we eliminate the stress by liaising with solicitors, insurers and care providers on a client’s behalf to attain the best outcome.”
Peter and his team are made up of specialist medics and clinicians from every field of neuro and respiratory care.
A crucial part of their work is delivering and implementing rehabilitation programmes and care for clients.
The PSP team work in partnership with specialist care and case management provider Community Life Choices.
Preston-headquartered Community Life Choices helps people with varying needs live independently in their homes by delivering bespoke care and support packages.
Alan Frew, Community Life Choices’ managing director, explains: “ABI sufferers usually require an element of care for the rest of their lives, which is where we step in.
“Our services are person-centred and underpinned by an ethos of promoting independence to optimum levels.
“Our case managers and care managers provide a collaborative process which is flexible, responsive and supports the individual as they navigate services such as hospital, school, returning to work and other agencies.
“Working hand in hand with clinicians like PSP enables us to understand the medical complexity of brain injuries and how to provide the right care for these individuals with our specialist support workers integral to the rehabilitation process.
“Medical advancements also mean people are surviving much longer than they would have in the past, which puts extra strain on society.
“By providing instant care and support that’s bespoke to the client means that the rate of recovery is much faster and, while the individual may never fully recover, quality of life is greatly improved.
“In such instances, state provision is insufficient whereas we deliver the most appropriate and cost effective private treatment, care and support that meets the individual’s needs.”
l For more information, visit: www.comunitylifechoices.co.uk or call 01772 842181 or visit: www.psp-uk.co.uk or call 01772 789746.