Howard Francis, from Stafford, shares a guest post about the difference a new fully accessible wetroom – fitted for free through a scheme called Impey Cares run by Impey Showers – is making to the life of his daughter Charlotte, who lives with a series of complex disabilities.
“The first year of my daughter Charlotte’s life was spent mainly in hospital.
The first sign something was wrong was when she tried to take a drink and her little body wouldn’t let her. She was transferred to the neo-natal intensive care at Newcastle under Lyme, and then to the specialist Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
We spent the first six months of her life there, miles from home, as the doctors investigated what was wrong, and then a further six months back in Stafford Hospital.”
During that first year Charlotte underwent surgery on her heart, as well as several other operations. She could breathe but required oxygen to maintain saturations, and to ensure she received enough oxygen. The breathing problem stemmed from a floppy windpipe.
Eventually, when Charlotte was five, she was diagnosed with a defect in chromosome 4.
Today, as a 13-year-old, it means Charlotte cannot communicate verbally – although she knows a few Makaton signs – is unable to walk, and has very limited upper body strength.
She also suffers from curvature of the spine which means she has to wear a back brace, and has learning disabilities. She is a happy and chilled out kid, who loves being out in the fresh air and used to enjoy horse-riding.
But there’s no doubt that day to day life can be challenging – and even the simple task of having a wash or getting in the shower used to be a major operation in our house.
The problem was that the bathroom was just too small and inaccessible. Trying to get her into the room and transferred to her bath chair without causing her pain was near on impossible. I could sometimes see tears in her eyes – it was awful to know it was hurting her, and it certainly wasn’t very ladylike.
But now, thanks to Impey Showers and the state-of-the-art wetroom they provided through their Impey Cares scheme, Charlotte can simply be wheeled into the bathroom for a shower.
The newly-accessible space is also helping her use the toilet and brush her teeth at the sink, which is boosting her independence.
I first read about the scheme in a magazine and thought ‘why not?’ apply. Impey Showers – a leading firm of wetroom specialists who provide adaptations for both the healthcare and luxury market – set up the Impey Cares initiative at the start of 2012 to represent the interests of vulnerable, disabled and elderly people, and raise awareness of their increasingly difficult situation in the face of government spending cuts.
It offers wetroom adaptations to those who desperately need the vital work to be carried out but have been refused funding through a Disabled Facilities Grant.
Charlotte and I are one of the latest families to benefit – but it’s great to hear the scheme has been extended into 2013, hopefully meaning even more people can experience the life-changing difference a wetroom can make.
The adaptation they carried really was a godsend one for us. I’ve been laid off work as a HGV driver since April, after suffering a complex break to my ankle.
It means there’s no way I would have been able to pay for it myself – I dread to think of the state of my savings at the moment. I would have just had to carry on muddling through with the bathroom I had, but as Charlotte gets older it would have only got harder.
But now, after the workmen removed a stud wall and existing WC, hand wash basin and bath, and replaced them with state-of-the-art equipment including Impey EasyFit wetroom floor former, mixer shower and warm air body dryer, our daily routine is far easier. I don’t know where we’d be without Impey, to be honest.
The first time I showered her, she was unsure as it was a big change – but it was a positive unsure, not negative. And when I turned the Air Dryer on, her face was a picture – she didn’t know what to think! But once I turned her into the path of the dryer she started to laugh and stick her tongue out and loved it.
Charlotte is such a chilled-out kid. She’s always happy except when she’s in pain. It’s so good to know she can now have such a simple thing as a shower without it hurting her.”
By Howard Francis
Nominations are now being invited for Impey Cares adaptations to be carried out in 2013.
Applications are invited from those with a mobility problem or disability, their carers, or representatives from schools, charities and other not-for-profit organisations.
Visit Impey Care website to make your nomination now.