Hemel man overcomes a coma then outsmarts coronavirus to provide vital rehabilitation service

A former telecommunications engineer from Bovingdon who began a new career in healthcare after spending a week in a coma following a car accident, has combined his skills to enable a virtual well-being support service during lockdown.
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Andy Jay is currently in the final year of his degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton. The coronavirus pandemic had caused his clinical placement to close its doors but Andy had the idea to merge his passion for occupational therapy with his telephony skills to keep the service up and running.

Andy said: “I’ve set up an automated tele-health hotline for them that directs calls to myself and other OT students. We assist callers to identify the difficulties they are experiencing and work with them to find the right solutions to improve their well-being. It’s working very well and is a brilliant feeling to do this for everyone. I just wanted to help out and make sure this important service keeps going.”

Five years ago, life was very different for Andy. He explains how his life changed in a moment: “I was on my way to work in 2015 when I was involved in a road traffic accident and sustained extensive injuries - a ‘shopping list’ of the worse things you could suffer. I had a broken leg, shattered elbow, broken forearm, six broken ribs, fractures to multiple vertebrate and many more internal injuries.

Andy JayAndy Jay
Andy Jay

“Because of this, I had two strokes and spent a week in a coma, but when I came to and noticed the great care I was receiving, I instantly knew I wanted to work for the NHS.”

Andy’s recovery helped him see which health career was the right fit. Following the coma, he spent a further five months in hospital before returning home to begin post-hospital support which included visits from health and care professionals.

He continues: “Coming home was a whole upheaval; going from being able-bodied to having a disability was hard to come to terms with. Also, prior to the accident I had been the main breadwinner, so losing my role and identity within the family was also very hard.

“Thankfully I had an occupational therapist who got to know me and my family and helped us to accept life had changed and to get back to doing our daily activities, which is what OT is all about. This gave me my ‘lightbulb moment’ about where I saw myself working in health.”

Now nearing the completion of his studies, Andy’s final year clinical placement has been at The Reach for Health Centre, a charitable organisation based in Daventry. The centre provides physical and mental health rehabilitation for people who, like Andy, have had a major, life-altering health trauma such as a stroke.

The helpline that Andy has setup is: 01327 828 260 and is open from 10am to 4pm each day, to anyone who needs phone-based assistance and advice – whether they previously visited the centre or not – and need a friendly, professional person to talk with about their health and well-being.