“Four hours” was how long Lynda Mitchell was told her husband had to live in spring 2018.
If only, she says, someone could have told her in that moment, how Peter would fight back from the brink of death to enjoy an independent, fulfilling life again, with the help of fantastic hospital staff and the Shropshire-based charity Ethos.
A mystery illness
Peter was an active worker and musician, living with Lynda and their son Christopher in Flintshire, when he was struck by a mystery illness causing an abscess in his neck, crushing his spine, which was at the same time was infected by sepsis - a type of blood poisoning.
The sepsis was diagnosed after Peter noticed a pain in his leg, and shortly after he suddenly stopped breathing at home and was taken by air ambulance to Walton Hospital in Chesterfield where he had surgery to remove the abscess and two blood transfusions.
The medics feared the worst but Peter pulled through against the odds. He had lost the use of his arms and legs, needing a wheelchair to get around, and spent time in Intensive Care before he was found a bed at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) in Oswestry. There the spinal injury team put him on the first steps to recovery with physio and hydrotherapy among other support. He describes the staff at the RJAH as “amazing”. “I’m extremely grateful to all of them,” he says.
Moving on after hospital
A resettlement officer then discussed Peter’s options with him. He couldn’t return home because it wasn’t suitable for a wheelchair so they talked about him moving to a nursing home - but this, understandably, was a difficult option for a 53-year-old to contemplate.
The officer then mentioned Ethos which is dedicated to helping people with life-changing physical disabilities enjoy independent lives. The charity provides adapted short-term accommodation and support, and helps them to find a permanent future home to suit their needs
Peter decided to take a look and met the staff at one of Ethos’s three bungalows in Oswestry. “I had no doubts when I came here,” he says.
In October he was “over the moon” to be allocated a space and arrived in November.
Peter says Ethos has since been his “safety net”.
“When you leave hospital it could be very cold and lonely. You’ve previously taken a lot for granted, and you never think something like this will happen to you - but if it does you need somewhere like Ethos.
“The support is phenomenal - there is always someone at hand, and with their help, you learn to be independent again, you can do every task you need to do. I don’t know where I’d be if Ethos wasn’t here.
“There is no other service like it, within the community, in the UK, but if it was available all over the country, the benefits would be unlimited.”
Finding a new home
Although he is still in a wheelchair, Peter now has some movement in his arms and legs, and, with help from Ethos to find a permanent place to live, is living in his own home in the Oswestry area - plus he hopes to one day work again.
Lynda says “it’s remarkable how far he’s come,” adding that his determination has been “unreal”.
“At one point I was told he only had four hours to live - if only I could have seen ahead how Peter - and we - would have a future.
“It was difficult to cope with what happened, and be a family, but with Ethos’s help we can be a family again,” she says.
A fundraising mud run
Lynda was so grateful to Ethos that she joined a fundraising Mud Run challenge in September organised by Karen Schofield, Team Leader at the Ethos properties. Lynda and Karen made up a team with Personal Assistant Megan Edwards and Karen’s son Liam Rodway. They tackled mud, hills, bogs, marsh land, lakes, river crossings, tunnels, walls, net crawls, water slides, trenches, head dunks, giant bales and more to raise money towards buying a standing frame, to enable Ethos clients to stand with the support they need.
If you would like to make a donation to Ethos, and help more people like Peter, please visit: https://www.paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/112574636177901026/charity/3270439