‘Inspiring Times’ is certainly a fitting title for the work of Reach for Health and the impact this has had on those, like me, who make use of it. In January 2013 I suffered a serious haemorrhagic stroke, requiring life-saving brain surgery, and was discharged from hospital some 7 months later with a full hoist, a lack of mobility in my left limbs, no left-field vision, very little short-term memory and, perhaps worst of all, a deepening despair about my future. The NHS provided valuable support in the early stages of my injury, particularly from those specialists operating in the front line. However, one soon discovers that this support is always temporary, especially for those patients who have difficulty in making rapid and sustained progress in the early stages. While the NHS will strive heroically to keep us alive, our families have to seek other sources of rehabilitation which are not easily found without great personal effort and expense. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Reach for Health has become the major source of progress and a significant haven of hope for me: and for those at home who devote many hours to my care, amusement and additional practice. A unique feature of the gym is its atmosphere of good humour and support, not just generated from the staff, but more especially from fellow members who follow each other’s progress closely and freely offer their congratulations for any sign of improvement. Many would site this as a significant antidote to despair and a major reason why they continue the struggle against the odds.
Over time, it dawned on us that Reach for Health has no interest in resting on its laurels. Indeed, as the brochure explains, this is not even an option. Not only does it recruit able staff and volunteers, it helps them to keep up to date in their knowledge and training in what is a rapidly changing field of medicine and development of techniques to aid rehabilitation from brain injury. The notice boards are never stale, repeatedly offering new fund-raising ventures, new courses designed for existing and new members, along with details of external sources of interest and support. Trustees of the charity are frequent visitors to the gym and it is obvious from overheard conversations between them and staff that the organisation is full of ideas and the energy to fulfil them. They already have an excellent record in planning and developing a first-rate enterprise. This has continued to provide a rare and valuable resource for those seeking to overcome life-changing injuries and doing so in a very difficult financial environment. Without our help the chances of its own survival are uncertain and, if it fails to survive, what message will it leave for others who would seek to follow its example. As a consequence, those who know will happily do whatever we can to sustain and, if possible, help it to expand this dream for those who follow us.