Ireana – how HOLG helped after her husband’s accident

When Ireana’s husband suffered a head injury in 2012, although he survived, the damage to his brain was so severe that he will never be the same person again. The sense of loss felt by Ireana and her daughters for the husband and father they loved has been overwhelming.
HOLG continues to support them – here’s their story.

“Joe was just 33 when he had his accident. He was tall – 6ft 4in, handsome and a brilliant, hands-on dad. We were in Gibraltar, where I’m from, when he had a fall and hit his head. He was taken to a hospital in Spain but it was four days before he was operated on and in that time, his head swelled so badly that he had a stroke. Doctors had to perform a craniotomy, removing half of his skull, which left him in a coma for three and a half months. Since then, he has required round-the-clock care in various care homes and is unable to communicate or do anything for himself.

Our daughters, Jasmine, Alisha and Naomi were just 9,7 and 4 when it happened. Since then, our lives have been in limbo. Finding the best care for my husband is very difficult so he has moved care homes several times, meaning we have had to move between different towns in Spain, Gibraltar and the UK to stay near to him. We now live in Kent.

The impact on my children and me has been devastating. At first, it was the elephant in the room. We started to fall apart as a family because we just didn’t speak about it. My youngest daughter developed strong attachment issues. My eldest really struggled as she also has autism and ADHD. We were referred to CAMHS who suggested we get in touch with HOLG.

Debbie and Emily at HOLG are angels. They have helped the girls talk about their dad and brought us back together as a family. We took part in six weeks of activities with them which we attended every Tuesday. By the second or third week, the girls began to really look forward to our HOLG days and so did I. It was our time together.

Most of the activities involved crafts which we really enjoyed. We loved making the salt jars which we coloured with chalk. Each colour represents a different memory. The girls all made their own with memories about their dad. We were also given a jar from which we had to pick out activities for us to do together as a family. We were encouraged to write down what it is we love about each other – we laminated these and stuck them on our fridge. The girls particularly loved it when they got to throw clay, it really helped them to get their anger out in a safe way.

All of these activities kept us together. They opened up doors to communication and made us want to talk about what had happened. When you stop talking, it causes a barrier which escalates into other things.

A lot of my time is taken up with ensuring Joe continues to receive the expert care he needs, as well as looking after my daughters. My family is in Gibraltar so I have no relatives in the UK to help me so it’s not easy. But I visit him as often as I can. Sometimes he smiles at me and I feel that he’s still in there somewhere.

Before Joe’s accident, I was a croupier which I loved but I’m not able to return to that career now.

Our experience with HOLG has inspired me to look into care-related work. I’ve started to volunteer and recently I had the chance to be involved in an arts and crafts workshop and I showed the class how to make salt jars. I’m hoping to do more volunteering and learn new skills so that one day, I can begin a career in event organising and charity fundraising.”