Having spent 18 months in hospital after breaking her neck Marion Blower was thrilled to return home last year, unfortunately the reality has not been the dream homecoming she hoped for.
In March 2013 Mrs Blower was less than two months into her retirement, after working at Sudbury Resource Centre for 17 years, when she fell down the stairs of her Boxford home, breaking her neck, leaving her paralysed from the chest down.
The next year and a half was spent in four hospitals, with 16 months spent at Sheffield’s Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre.
After months of waiting, including numerous complications and setbacks, Mrs Blower - who is often known by her former surname Corner - returned home last September.
Now she has been telling the Free Press about life since and how the care she has received has left her feeling anxious and unwell in her own home.
“After you have an accident and you spend a long time in hospital and you come home you expect life to be easier, but that’s not always the way,” she said. “All I was interested in was coming home.
“You are totally reliant on what you are told and I was told competent staff were in place, but that’s not always the case.”
Mrs Blower has been left desperately unhappy at the level of care she has received as a whole from Pulse Community Healthcare, the agency that provides her care on behalf of the NHS.
Despite praising many of the care workers, she says she is frequently supported by workers drafted in from other agencies, some without the relevant skills or training for her complex needs, while at other times carers have failed to turn up at all.
Being paralysed from the chest down, Mrs Blower receives round-the-clock care, much of this of a private nature, and the constant merry-go-round of different staff entering her home has led to a lot of stress for the 63-year-old mother-of-two.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but it has been much harder than I anticipated,” she said.
“All this is having a massive impact on my health. It’s emotionally draining. I’ve struggled with chest problems. It’s part of the anxiety, not knowing who’s coming through the door.”
The problems have put a strain on the whole family, with husband Bryn once having to cover her care for 36 hours straight, after successive care shifts failed to turn up.
“It doesn’t happen a lot,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be happening at all.
“The NHS pay for the agencies so it’s public money being used,” Mrs Blower added.
Mrs Blower and her husband Bryn, who now live in an adapted bungalow in Rye Hill, Sudbury, have spoken with the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and with Pulse but say they have yet to see any changes.
Pulse Community Healthcare was unavailable for comment.
Having worked in the public sector for 33 years, Mrs Blower has questioned whether private agencies, such as Pulse, care for the patient as much as public sector groups.
Now Mrs Blower has a new task at hand, helping ensure those that have similar injuries to her do not face the same problems in the future.
“It’s more about making sure people don’t experience so many of the negatives and encourage organisations to get the care issues right,” she said.
Her other ambition is to move into a three-bedroom bungalow so she can have a live-in carer, something she feels will improve the quality of care she receives, however finding one is proving difficult.
She was keen to stress it had not all been bad, was pleased with many of the care workers and holding special praise for the community support.
In total more than £14,000 was raised by members of the public in the aftermath of her fall, the money allowing her to buy a specialised electric wheelchair, which she described as a “lifeline”, giving her the freedom to go into town and go shopping.
“It was a very humbling experience that I got this from the people of Sudbury,” she said. “I will never forget that.”
“I spent years fundraising in Sudbury and when I needed them there were there for me. It makes me feel quite tearful.”
Going from being a carer of others to being cared for has been difficult for Mrs Blower.She added it had been hard for friends to see her in a wheelchair with a tracheostomy.
“It’s been difficult coming back in a different guise,” she said. “I left on two legs and came back paralysed. But being near my friends and family has made it easier to adapt.”