Reflections and hope at reunion for centre once a-Head of its time
Headley Court gathering offers opportunity to celebrate rehabilitation centre’s history before its closure next year and transfer to modern Loughborough facility
them the opportunity to reconnect with long lost friends as they tucked into treats given out by Headley’s own ‘cake lady’.
But the staff have always had the impending closure at the back of their minds, said the commanding officer: “The move of Headley Court has been a long time coming and was part of the daily narrative on the unit for more than five years, creating an ongoing uncertainty that, at times, has been challenging.
“Even in my very short tenure the transition has always been talked about as something that is quite intangible and on the horizon.”
She continued: “That is no longer the case and today it is seven months and five days until the advance party deploy to Stanford Hall on the 30th of April 2018.
“And if you want a more accurate countdown I can give you the minutes and seconds as I have the app on my phone that is constantly counting down to D-Day.
“If all goes to plan, this time next year, on the 3rd of September, we will be receiving our first patients through the door.”
The CO added: “Maintaining normal capability has been a tough mission to execute while simultaneously trying to prepare a brand new site 170 miles away with no additional resource.
“Everybody at Headley Court has rallied together and, despite personal uncertainty and sadness, the unit is simply in a position it shouldn’t be when considering the amount of change it faces.
“Paradoxically morale is high, sickness and welfare cases are at an all-time low and the predicted mass exodus of staff that is typical in similar change programmes has simply not materialised.”
Occupational therapist Joanne Olney, who is one of the unit’s civilian staff, said: ”Headley is such an unusual place to work with regard to the camaraderie, the support among staff, the diversity of the projects you can do and the courage and enthusiasm of patients and staff alike.”
Ms Olney will retire when the centre moves but she wants to leave a legacy and is working with Fuji to make photography an accepted treatment in rehabilitation.
She has already set up an exhibition of her patients’ work in Headley Court.
“It helps with mobility,” she said. “I took a young patient out, he’s a double amputee with high amputations and he was walking with his camera outside in a public park, taking photographs. “But also it’s stimulating, intellectually. It’s very soothing, psychologically.” Officer Commander of the Rehab Squadron, Ron Bain, joined the military when he was 16 and made the move to Headley Court as a sergeant in 1979. He recalls the centre’s transition as Britain went to war: “In those days Headley Court was run-of-the -mill. “Don’t get me wrong when I say run-ofthe-mill, it was the strains and sprains, people falling off their bikes, having car crashes. It was fairly straightforward. “There was none of what was to come in the future. We built ourselves up for mass casualties in 91/92. “Unfortunately, when the Gulf War broke out – Afghanistan, Iraq – we saw the multi-trauma stuff coming through.” He continued: “That did leave a completely different outline. We were suddenly engulfed, if you like, with these guys and girls with massive injuries and we were having to deal with it.
“And in those days we didn’t have the expertise, but over the next five, six, seven years it was built up so we actually became world leaders in rehab for amputees, and for me that has been one of the great prides in working here and being part of that team.”
To him the reunion was not bittersweet: “It’s sweet,” he said. “But obviously I’m sad because of what’s been done here and what’s been built up here, but I fully understand why it’s closing.
“The infrastructure is way out of date.
“What I’ve been told about the new place... it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Headley Court will close next year
Headley Court staff, past and present, enjoyed the opportunity to meet each other on Thursday last week
The reunion allowed military and civilian staff to celebrate their achievements