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One step at a time: Cambridgeshire rehab community shares patient's story to mark Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day



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A Fenland rehab community has marked Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day (May 14) with one of its success stories.

Askham Rehab, a specialist neuro rehab community, in Doddington, has shared the journey of Justin Urquhart, a 59-year-old from King’s Lynn who sustained degeneration injuries to his neck and lower spine that subsequently developed into an infection in 2020 and severely hampered his mobility.

In addition to cervical spinal stenosis, an area in the neck where the space around the spinal cord becomes narrowed and puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, Justin suffered discitis in the two lowest vertebrae of his lumbar spine (L4 and L5). The inflammation between the intervertebral discs led to the bacterial infection that caused Justin’s loss of mobility.

Justin made use of Tyromotion’s PABLO, a sensor-based device for unilateral and bilateral training, which focused on building movement and coordination in his upper limbs. (47176923)
Justin made use of Tyromotion’s PABLO, a sensor-based device for unilateral and bilateral training, which focused on building movement and coordination in his upper limbs. (47176923)

After a period of time at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, where he received immediate medical attention, Justin was admitted to Askham Rehab in December to begin his rehabilitation recovery.

This involved being assessed by the multidisciplinary teams; clinical psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, before SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) goals were set to aid his recovery.

Sara Neaves, Clinical Lead and Outpatients Service Manager at Askham Rehab, said: “When Justin came to us, he was very limited in what he could do.

Justin Urquhart was admitted to Askham Rehab in December 2020. (47176933)
Justin Urquhart was admitted to Askham Rehab in December 2020. (47176933)

“He spent a lot of time in bed due to fatigue and muscle atrophy. The lack of strength in his four limbs required us to think outside the box in terms of what we could do with his therapy. Justin also had a sensory deficit, being unaware of light touch and proprioception.”

To combat these challenges, Justin’s therapy had a specific focus on regaining muscle strength and range of movement through the use of Askham Rehab’s hydrotherapy pool and state-of-the-art robotic suite. In particular, Justin made use of Tyromotion’s PABLO, a sensor-based device for unilateral and bilateral training, which focused on building movement and coordination in his upper limbs.

Although still undergoing rehabilitation at Askham Rehab, Justin’s progress has drastically improved during his treatment, with the former personal assistant now being able to weight-bear transfer and take steps with assistance.

Justin has been “blown away” by his experience at Askham Rehab, labelling the family-run neuro rehab community as a “very special place”. (47176937)
Justin has been “blown away” by his experience at Askham Rehab, labelling the family-run neuro rehab community as a “very special place”. (47176937)

Sara continued: “Justin’s attitude to therapy and rehabilitation has been incredible. He’s always motivated.

“Being fiercely independent before his injury, he has really challenged himself in every therapy session and as a result, is now able to weight-bear transfer, be safer on his feet, and aware of where his legs are.

“The improvements have been really encouraging. While there is still a long way to go, we’re confident that there are still sufficient gains to be made.

Justin’s therapy had a specific focus on regaining muscle strength and range of movement. (47176940)
Justin’s therapy had a specific focus on regaining muscle strength and range of movement. (47176940)

“One of his long-term goals was to be able to take steps again. This has been achieved much quicker than we originally expected, and we believe this is due to the advanced technological facilities we have here at Askham Rehab, and the approach we implement towards rehabilitation. We’re excited for him to fulfil his ultimate goal of going home and being independent.

A keen music enthusiast, particularly of Shirley Bassey, Justin has been “blown away” by his experience at Askham Rehab, labelling the family-run neuro rehab community as a “very special place”.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Askham. Whether it’s been the carers, the nurses or the maintenance staff, everyone has been just fabulous,” he said.

Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, director at Askham, said: “Justin’s journey encompasses what Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day is all about.”



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