Soldier being hugged by daughter

Supporting Families: Karen & Nigel’s Story

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Sometimes when a veteran comes home from active service or leaves the Emergency Services, it can be a case of the whole family having to readjust to a new home dynamic and that can be difficult. This can be more challenging if perhaps a veteran is struggling with physical or mental health issues, that aren’t always straight forward and needs extra support. This comes with its own difficulties as often veterans are used to being very independent and considered ‘strong’. This was particularly the case with Karen and her husband, Nigel, who visit us here at Woody’s Lodge regularly. Read below to find out more about their story.

Karen & Nigel’s story

My husband, Nigel, had always been the big strong man, the provider and the person everyone turned to for support and help. When he retired from the Police force after a full career as a Traffic Police Officer and Firearms Officer, our future looked rosy. He was well respected and experienced, so finding a new job came easily.

Nigel, Karen and Tabatha | Woody's Lodge

However, our lives were completely changed forever when Nigel was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis in 2012. Ever since, he has since slowly been losing the ability to move. Our daughter, Tabitha, was 10 years old when he was first diagnosed and has grown up understanding that her strong dad needs help. It took a year for us to come to terms with the diagnosis, although I sometimes wonder if we will ever completely accept how our lives have changed. Nigel continued to work until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015.

After a particularly bad year, but successfully battling the cancer with radiotherapy, we became aware that our lives had shrunk, and we were no longer going out on a regular basis. Coping with a disability when you have always been strong, fit and able is a really difficult pill to swallow. By January 2017, I realised that we had become prisoners in our own home. I had bit by bit given up everything I loved doing and had become Nigel’s full-time carer, trapped with him. Social services couldn’t offer any help other than an expensive 1-day session every week with elderly and more severely disabled people. They did however point us in the direction of a new charity that was being set up to offer a social meeting place and support for veterans and the emergency services: Woody’s Lodge.

Woody’s Lodge has become the focal point of Nigel’s week, a place he can go to, where he doesn’t feel like the disabled person. Where his position as a Police Officer still means something. His disability is catered for, but it doesn’t affect how people treat or speak to him and it is definitely not seen as a weakness.

Apart from medical appointments, Woody’s Lodge is the only place Nigel leaves the house for most weeks. For me, it is a place where I feel that I am not on my own; a place where I can ask for help, without consequences or forms to fill in, to qualify for that help. Initially I didn’t intend to stay, I thought I would have a day to myself but the support and welcome we have both received has given me a focus again that helps us both deal with the difficulties we have. For our daughter, it is a team of people that she can turn to if I get ill which is such a huge relief.

Woody’s Lodge has become a lifeline for our family.

If you’re a friend or family of a veteran or an Emergency Services leaver and are looking for some help and support through veteran’s family services or perhaps the chance to socialise with others who’ve had a similar experience to yourself, Woody’s Lodge is here to help. Contact the team on 01446 781792 (South Wales) or 01492 533954 (North Wales). You can also drop us an email at [email protected]

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