A student who conquered recovery after a life-changing accident is fulfilling a dream to put something back into the health service.
Andy Jay – originally from Hertfordshire and now living in Leighton Buzzard – is in the final year of his degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton.
But the allied health profession is completely different to the one he had before. Andy explains about the near-death experience that started his career switch: “I’d been working as a communications engineer for 18 years, which meant I set up online comms like the phones that run through people’s office computers.
“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.
“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 pandemic means the centre has closed its physical doors to clients. So, Andy had an idea to merge his passion for OT with his telephony skills to help him continue his placement and ensure Reach for Health could keep providing a service.
He adds: “I’ve set up an automated telehealth 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.”
The helpline 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.
The centre has also put together 12 exercise plans designed to keep people active and also tailored to individuals who may have disabilities.