In late September 2013, Kerry Ford, a 46 year old teacher, was in the Falkland Islands going about her daily life, while her Veteran husband Nobby was undergoing an operation to remove scar tissue left over from an earlier procedure at another hospital.
Five days after this second operation Nobby suffered a carotid artery blow out, an unexpected complication causing brain damage. Meanwhile, at home, Kerry was unaware until the phone rang. She said: “I had a call telling me to come to the UK as they didn’t think that Nobby was going to survive.”
As Kerry was hurrying to throw clothes into her small suitcase, Nobby was being rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, where medical staff fought to save his life. By the time Kerry had completed her journey to Birmingham - more than 8,000 miles from home - Nobby was in an induced coma, having had yet another operation to remove part of his skull and help the swelling on his brain to decrease.
Nobby’s induced coma was sustained for the following six weeks, and Kerry was by his side thanks to the help of Fisher House, a partnership between the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) Charity, American charity Fisher House Foundation and Help for Heroes, set up to provide free accommodation to the families of wounded and severely ill troops and Veterans.
Kerry said: “I had nowhere close by to stay. Friends that I had were over three hours’ drive away and I needed to be near Nobby, to stay with him throughout the day. Staying at Fisher House was a god send, and it proved to be even more so as time went on.
“The support you get from the team at Fisher House is phenomenal – they are there to listen to you, through the good times and the bad. They understand and empathise with the situation that you are in and the other families staying there all come together. It’s like having an extended family.”
Nobby was brought out of his coma and his recovery continued. Fisher House ended up becoming Kerry’s home for more than 16 months and she spent two Christmases there, while her husband underwent intensive rehabilitation close by at the hospital.
“Christmas at Fisher House was a very special time. Families that have never met before, who were all going through a traumatic time, pulled together to make sure that no-one was alone. The best present I received was being allowed to have Nobby with me for an hour on Christmas Day, which would not have been possible if I had not been at Fisher House.”
Kerry and Nobby now live on the Isle of Wight. Kerry said: “We will return to Fisher House for many years to come, as Nobby will need further treatment and operations. I know that having Fisher House makes such a difference to us both.”
Fisher House is a purpose built two-storey property which is a short walk from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Opened in June 2013, the home caters for people of all abilities. A largely open plan property with wide connecting corridors and wheelchair accessible lifts, Fisher House has 18 en-suite bedrooms for families of patients to stay in as well as communal living facilities including a family room and play area, lounge, kitchen, dining areas and laundry room. Outside is a private garden with space for children to play in and guest parking.
Mike Hammond, QEHB Charity Chief Executive, said: “It is so important that families of ill or injured military personnel have a comfortable, relaxing and supportive environment in which they can stay as their loved ones are treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. This is especially important at Christmas, a time when families often come together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has supported Fisher House in the past and we hope that as many people as possible find it in their hearts to give a special gift this Christmas, and donate to Fisher House to support a military family.”
Families have a hugely important part to play in the recovery process and we recognise how essential it is that they are involved from an early stage. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity to enable families to be together, and never more so than at this important time of year.