"Please always wear a cycling helmet" - volunteer Ian's unexpected return to Sue Ryder Centre as a patient

Ian Calderbank does not remember much about the aftermath of a cycling accident in Chorley which left him drifting in and out of consciousness.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 8:52 am

But after cranial surgery at the Royal Preston Hospital he does remember his relief at realising his recuperation could continue in a place already very dear to him - the Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre at Fulwood.

Just months earlier as a volunteer driver he had helped to transfer residents from the charity's former base at Cuerden Hall to its new multi million pound purpose built state of the art centre on Teal Avenue.

Little did he expect to be back there for two weeks as a client himself, needing help with rehabilitation following a serious head injury.

Ian,a keen and experienced cyclist came off his bicycle in an accident in Chorley

But that is what happened to Ian, 70, from Chorley after he came off his bicycle in an accident on Harpers Lane in his home town and was not wearing a helmet.

Now he is paying tribute to the work of the Care Centre and also hoping his story will serve as a reminder to other cyclists to never leave their cycling helmet at home.

The experienced cyclist said: "Friends and neighbours can’t believe that I wasn’t wearing a helmet because I always do and have always been an advocate of using helmets. Whilst I was recovering, my daughter warned me that I could expect some stick from her for not wearing a helmet...The best I can come up with is that I had had a couple of false starts and had forgotten my helmet. I wasn’t going far, it was a route I was familiar with and I should have been alright. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. So can I make a plea through your pages to any cyclists out there. Please always wear a helmet...It can happen to anyone. Don't let it be you!"

Recalling the accident on Harpers Lane, Chorley, on September 19, 2021. the keen cyclist and swimmer, who spent several weeks on a ward in Royal Preston, said: "In a cruel twist of fate, 24 hours after completing the Epic Mile swim (Epic ‘ cos it’s organised by Epic Events) in Windermere and coming first in my age group (although there were only two of us) I was lying unconscious in the back of an ambulance. "

"Do as I say" - Ian is urging cyclists to never leave their cycling helmets at home Photo: Neil Cross

Ian continued: "It was only as I was recovering that I was told that I should not underestimate the seriousness of my injury . Once lucid, I was told that I would not be permitted to

return home until I had undergone rehabilitation. When It was mentioned that this could possibly be arranged at Sue Ryder my ears pricked up. As I saw it, this would be the ideal option in my circumstances. Not only was I familiar with the building but also with a number of the staff and perhaps more importantly, the staff knew me. As such they may remember what I was like the last time we were together which may give them an idea of how I was progressing.

"When I arrived at Sue Ryder, I was welcomed by familiar faces, one in particular had been my initial contact from my very first day as a volunteer. It was like coming home to the family.

As a precaution against Covid the staff were wearing masks so that I didn’t recognise everyone straight away which was a bit embarrassing because they seemed to know me. But as we conversed, the memories of our shared experience came back to me.

Ian pictured just days before his accident at the end of his Epic swim in Lake Windermere

He praised staff for their support: "I was required to isolate, which meant I was quite lonely. The staff found time in their busy day to call in for a chat to stave off my loneliness. Even carrying out routine checks, they would ask about me, my family, my life - anything to relieve the monotony."

Ian, former principal engineer for local highway planning with Bolton Council took early retirement at the age of 59 and has wide experience of volunteering. He helped for more than eight years at the St Catherine's Hospice's furniture shop, with a local dial-a-ride service, at Runshaw College as a volunteer maths tutor and minibus driver and as a marshal for the Epic Mile swimming challenges in Cumbria.The latter role meant he also got the opportunity to take part in the lake swims.

More recently, prior to the Covid pandemic, he had volunteered as a driver for patients at Sue Ryder’s previous site in Cuerden Hall after hearing they needed someone to drive their minibus. He said: "They were most enthusiastic that I join the team, and once my credentials had been checked I started to take the patients on outings”.

Because of the move to Fulwood he knew he would not be able to help at Sue Ryder to the same extent in the future and at the time of his accident was hoping to become a volunteer vaccinator.

Ian pictured on a cycling holiday in Greece with his daughter Amy

Ian said. “When I joined Sue Ryder I felt the staff treated me as part of the team. I felt so welcome and looked after as a volunteer. If you’ve got the time, then do it!”

As for his experience of the Sue Ryder centre as a client he said: "On my previous volunteer visits, I had got a sense that Sue Ryder was providing good care. Having experienced it for myself I can say this is not true ...they provide excellent care!"

Ian had been due to return to the centre as a VIP guest for its Christmas fair but the pandemic meant that visit had to be cancelled. He is looking forward to making a return visit in the future - but this time as a visitor.

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Ian Calderbank photo: Neil Cross