One step at a time – Our physiotherapy team helped Peter learn to walk again

July 20, 2021

  “When I was carried up the 16 stairs to my flat by the ambulance crew on my last return from hospital, I thought that was it…I might never walk again.” – But thanks to our physiotherapists he’s now managing laps of his local park!

When Peter Jennings was diagnosed with cancer and subsequent sepsis and pneumonia, he spent weeks in and out of hospital, his leg muscles weakened which resulted in a decline in his mobility. He became ‘trapped’ in his first floor flat, as he was unable to manage the stairs to the ground floor.

But after a year of intensive work with North London Hospice’s physiotherapy team, Peter is now back on his feet and celebrating steady and regular improvements in his balance and mobility, something he thought he might never manage again.

A sprightly 79, Peter was very active before his diagnosis, enjoying skiing, sailing and running. “When I was carried up the 16 stairs to my flat by the ambulance crew on my last return from hospital, I thought that was it…I was trapped in my flat and I might never walk without a zimmer frame again.”

Peter was referred by his GP to North London Hospice and began work with our physiotherapist Rob Fairclough in his home. Goals were set each week and Rob was soon encouraging Peter to try walking up and down a few stairs. With Rob’s help, his progress was remarkably swift. “Within just a couple of weeks, Rob encouraged me to walk right down to the ground floor and I felt a sudden freedom at being able to get out of my flat for the first time in six months.”

Rob also persuaded Peter to join the Health and Wellbeing Centre’s weekly Zoom physiotherapy course.  “This was really helpful”, said Peter, “and I still join the group every week”.

Peter began to use the stairs to strengthen his leg muscles, which had been so weakened by his stays in hospital. And in no time at all, he was managing to go up and down three flights of stairs!

When Peter’s mobility improved further, he began sessions with Michelle Mandler, the physio at our Health & Wellbeing Centre.  “Michelle has been absolutely brilliant”, said Peter. “She is so professional. We discussed what was important to me and set objectives.  I said I wanted to walk just with the support of a stick, even though I thought this was impossible for me to achieve.  She sets me objectives each week and we do a whole range of different exercises to help me achieve them.” 

Peter has continued to make steady progress.  With Michelle’s encouragement, he has managed to walk half a mile locally from his flat and taken a trip to the park. “To make my walks more interesting, I caught a bus to Broomfield Park and walked a long way round the lakes on my own,” he said. “I even stopped for a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the Community Café.  This trip out gave me a wonderful feeling of freedom and independence that I have not had since I was first diagnosed with cancer.  I owe so much to Rob and Michelle.  Their encouragement and professional help enabled me to make so much more progress in my mobility than I thought I could manage. I certainly could not have achieved it without them.”

As a former director of fundraising and marketing at Marie Curie, Peter is familiar with hospice care but was delighted at the variety of services offered by the Health and Wellbeing Centre to support patients to continue to live their lives. “Other nurses have phoned me to help with my care and it is continuing,” he said. “In the early days, they helped with practicalities such as arranging a wheelchair and hand support in my bathroom. Now, I am talking to Pauline McCulloch about setting up an Advance Care Plan under the system of ‘Co-ordinate My Care’.  I’m a great example of how a range of professional health workers at the Health and Welling Centre has helped a patient get back to living a better quality of life,” added Peter.

Michelle Mandler commented, “No matter where you are in life, there are always things that are important to you. When we help a patient achieve those goals, it’s very rewarding, especially when you help them get back to doing something they love.”


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