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

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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

Pic­tures: Max­i­m­il­ian Maerkl

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

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