'WE want to give Steve his independence back and help him to walk again'

Those are the words of Wedmore mum Alison Cox, who said she is working to raise £20,000 to pay for specialist physiotherapy and speech therapy to help her son, Steve Richards, to walk and talk again.

Steve, 36, from Burnham-on-Sea, was found unconscious on a roadside on December 23, 2014 in Thailand with severe head injuries after being attacked.

The 36 year-old was flown to Bangkok for emergency treatment on Christmas Eve and his family rushed to be by his bedside as he lay in a comatose state.

Alison, 58, said: "Nothing could have prepared me for receiving that message from Steve's girlfriend. I couldn't believe what had happened to him.

"It's every parents worst nightmare to find out that something like this has happened to their child."

In January 2015 Steve was flown back to the UK and woke up five and a half weeks later in a brain rehabilitation unit at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

He received care at the unit for nine months before he was moved to Dene Barton Rehab Unit in Cotford St Luke.

But after a number of months at the unit Steve's recovery plateaued and his family were told the unit was not in a position to continue his rehabilitation. 

Steve then spent two years in a nursing home as Alison said there were no other brain rehabilitation units in the area. 

In a bid to help Steve's recovery, Alison moved him to Alfred Court near Burnham-on-Sea in September 2018, where he receives 12 hours of care each day.

She said Steve has not been able to speak since the attack and is wheelchair bound but in last few months his left leg has started to respond and with assistance he can now stand.

She said: "We are trying to raise between £15,000 and £20,000 to pay for specialist therapy for Steve for at least six months including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.

"It has been four and a half years since Steve sustained his traumatic brain injury and he has been unable to communicate with anyone about what happened to him.

"Just a few months ago he took his first steps in more than four years, assisted by a person each side of him. Naturally, this was a very emotional moment for everyone.

"We are so pleased that Steve has moved into Alfred Court, it is an amazing place with an amazing team of staff but now we need to get him treatment to give him the best chance of walking and talking again.

"We know that Steve wants to walk and we want to be able to give him a way to communicate so he can tell us what happened to him. We know he can write but we don't know if he can read or if he will be able to talk.

"We want to give him the best possible chance and will keep fighting to fund his treatment."

Alison said she thinks there is not enough support for people who are suffering from brain injuries and their families and more funding needs to be allocated to help them.

"We need to have more funding in the area for brain injuries," Alison said. "There are some specialist brain rehabilitation centres in the UK but they are mainly based up north, there is not much in the South West.

"It is not helpful for people with brain injuries to be sent away from their families, they need the support of their family to help with their recovery."

Alison Henly, director of finance at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “As you will appreciate we cannot comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.

“Acute complex specialised rehabilitation services which support people with brain injuries are commissioned nationally through NHS England.

“We commission specialist rehabilitation services for people in Somerset with brain injuries. Some of these services are commissioned from Bristol NHS hospitals, others are provided at Somerset Neurological Rehabilitation Centre based at Dene Barton Community Hospital.

“Every patient with a brain injury is a unique individual with specific needs. We make sure that each individual is assessed and evaluated to make sure they receive the rehabilitation and support they need.

“For patients with a brain injury who are able to live at home, we commission community rehabilitation services. Some patients with a brain injury receive Continuing Health Care funding for their health needs.

“There are other elements of rehabilitation which are usually privately funded.

“We will be reviewing our neuro-rehabilitation inpatient beds in Somerset as part of our Fit for My Future strategy.”

For more information or to make a donation to Steve click here