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Real Life Stories

People's circumstances can change at any time. Unforeseen sickness, accidents or critical illness can have a real life impact on you and those around you. These Real Life Stories are a collection of examples of the impact various events can have on your life.

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Meet the Pickford Family

Paul Pickford from Bolton was fit and healthy and ran a car dealership until two years ago. In November 2012 at the age of 42 he suffered a brain stem stroke while at work. He is now paralysed and cared for by his wife Vicky.

“I was taken to hospital where, for a variety of care related reasons, I spent 14 months as an in-patient. I was discharged in January 2014 paralysed from the neck down, nil by mouth and unable to speak,” Paul explained via his Tobii i-12 eye gaze computer, which speaks whatever he types.

“The money Vicky and I receive and the access Seven Families gives me to experts who can offer advice on returning to work are godsends. I have not been affected cognitively, so if I cannot return to my previous employer the plan is to start some sort of business, although it would have to be something that can be controlled mainly via computer.”

Meet the Clarke Family

The first family to benefit from the project are Tim and Tracey Clarke, who live on a houseboat after financial difficulties forced the sale of the family home.

Tracey, who retains just 2% of her eyesight and will receive £600pm from the campaign, said: “We sold our house and bought a narrowboat, which is a much cheaper and more relaxed way of living. It is just about manageable on benefits but this additional money from 7 Families could be life changing.”

“Although I never had any functional vision in my left eye from birth it had never caused a problem. I drove a car, held an advanced driving licence, had a career as a Pharmacy Technician and did a lot of artwork. Then in 2011 my eyesight began to shut down completely for no diagnosed reason. There is no way that we could have afforded to keep the house and we were facing bankruptcy, but the 7 Families project is going to make an immense difference to us. Amongst other things I will be able to buy a laptop with the necessary specialist software that will allow me to work again. I then hope to begin to build a path into writing and publishing, which I can do from the boat.”

Meet the Pinder Family

Daniel Pinder was born deaf in November 1964 (he turns 50 this month) and was also diagnosed with epilepsy while young, neither of which stopped him from working as a rehabilitation officer.

In 2009, however, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. “Many years earlier I had briefly lost sight in my left eye and experienced different short term episodes until I originally thought I suffered a stroke. When the confirmation finally came in July 2009 that it was MS it came as a relief, because until then nobody could tell me what was really happening,“ Daniel said.

Meet the Thornley Family

In 2013 Nikki’s husband turned 40. To celebrate they decided to head off around Europe, child free for a couple of weeks, on two motorbikes. Unfortunately they never made it out of Scotland.

Nikki was paralysed in a motorcycle accident that has left her unable to work since.

“I’m still not exactly sure what happened. I lost control of my bike and hit a car. After a couple of days in a Borders hospital, I was transferred to the National Spinal Unit in Glasgow. I spent the next 11 months and 1 week (yes, I was counting!!) there away from my husband and two small boys. I don’t remember anyone actually telling me I would never walk again, I think it just became apparent over time” said Nikki.

“The biggest change to my life has been the transition from being someone who is so fiercely independent to having to ask for help, and I’m still trying to get my head around that now. It has been really difficult, especially when I see our cars flying around with their blues and twos on. However, I’m looking forward to going back work part-time, whatever it is I can do. As long as I’m able to add something I just want to get back to work.”

Meet the Snell Family

Until last summer Graeme Snell was a fit and healthy Hartlepool United fan. He worked full time as an Advanced Health and Wellbeing Practitioner and described himself as being very fit.

In July 2014 he had a double stroke and although he hasn’t worked since he has been described by medical staff as a ‘walking miracle’.

Graeme said: “There is no doubt that my level of fitness helped the recovery, and I dread to think what condition I might be in if I didn’t keep fit. There are some ongoing symptoms but overall I’m keen to return to work as soon as possible.

“The money from the project will help with day to day life. I will be taking voluntary redundancy in the spring and would like to return to work in some capacity before the end of the year, which is why the rehabilitation and support also provided by the project could be so important.”

Meet the Norbert Family

In his mid twenties, Paul Norbert was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – an often misconceived and vilified condition with far reaching effects.

“Compared to other health problems bipolar and depression are still often affected by misunderstanding and stigma. It can affect every aspect of your life and your relationships,” Paul reiterates, “I want to be open and honest about the condition and help others who might be going through something similar. Many people don’t know what to say but just a few words of kindness can make a difference, even just asking how you are.”

Paul, now 44, held down a job as a driving instructor for many years but eventually succumbed to his diagnosis and is working hard to get back on track. He is especially grateful for the support of Seven Families.

Meet the Knights Family

Melanie Knights is 40 years old and lives in Newcastle. She is married with three children and has a ‘wonderful’ spaniel dog called Oscar. She lost her job as a midwife in 2014 due to prolonged absence from work, primarily caused by arthritis.

“I got up one day and the pain was so unbearable I literally couldn’t move. I had scans, x-rays and various tests before they eventally diagnosed degenerative disc disease. I’ve had a hip replacement since and have also been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a disorder of the connective tissue affecting the mobement of my joints” said Melanie.

“I have a 2.8cm leg difference which makes it hard to walk and I get intense back pain. My joints move around which makes me unstable on my feet and sometimes I’m embarrassed to go out. I thought things like this only happened to older people”.

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