Birmingham Children’s Hospital | Joe’s story

Service providers, Stories

Joe had dreams of becoming a rock star but everything changed four years ago. He a blood clot on his spinal cord, which caused a stroke. He almost died.

After the stroke, Joe spent 15 months in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, a UK paediatric centre offering care to 90,000 children and young people across the country every year. During his rehabilitation, Joe felt depressed and he was struggling to cope.

Joe’s mum, Karen, desperately wanted to help her son. In 2012, she got in touch with Back Up after seeing our BBC Lifeline appeal on TV. She asked about the support we could offer Joe.

One of Back Up’s volunteers visited Joe while he was in hospital. During the visit, they both talked about returning to school and how having a care team could help Joe’s independence.

“Meeting Back Up made me realise that I can still go out and watch gigs,” Joe said. Since meeting Back Up, Joe has attended a Back Up course for children and young people, a wheelchair skills training sessions and has become a member of our youth advisory group. He has also won Young Person of the Year at the annual Back Up Ball.

After being discharged, Joe returned to Birmingham Children’s Hospital as an outpatient. However, this time he was feeling happier and more positive about the future. The staff at the hospital saw the difference Back Up had made to Joe’s life, so they asked us to work with them to organise an event for other children living with spinal cord injury and their families.

As a result, we collaborated with the hospital to deliver a Family Fun Day. During the day, we delivered wheelchair skills training and Back Up young volunteers were encouraged to share their experiences of living with spinal cord injury.

“By meeting others in a similar situation, young people realise they are not alone, they make new friends, build their support networks and have fun. The Family Fun Day couldn’t have happened without the hospital staff who encouraged families to attend, organised the space and welcomed Back Up to run sessions,” Ella, Back Up’s Under 18s Manager, said.

“The event at Birmingham Children’s Hospital was important to me because they were a big part in helping me get to where I am today. I wanted to give something back,” Joe said.

Hospital staff particularly liked the session delivered by Ben, one of Back Up’s Youth Advisors. Trauma and Rehabilitation Coordinator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital said: “The openness and honesty was appreciated by everyone. They were full of enthusiasm and we were amazed by the way they encouraged even the more reluctant children into taking part.”

The next Family Fun Day at Birmingham Children’s Hospital is planned for Sunday, May 22 2016 and is open to any children or young people with spinal cord injury.

Get in touch with Ella for more information or visit our website to find out about our services for children and young people.