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Andrew Ross felt he had nowhere left to turn in December 2017. He had fallen ill and after coming around from a month in a coma, found out that he would not be able to walk again. He had communication problems and was at a high risk of infection. This was his situation when he met our Pro Bono team, who helped him with some financial issues that had occurred as a result of his illness and enabled him to concentrate on his recovery.
Andrew was working as an independent consultant for the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse when he was diagnosed with colonic diverticulitis. Andrew used to travel the country for his work and previously enjoyed the diversity of his work as a negotiator and mediator, communicating on many levels to combat gang culture among other things. However, his health and mobility had started to decline to the point where he was no longer able to work. Andrew was admitted to hospital, and during his stay became extremely ill and fell into a coma.
Andrew was treated on the intensive care unit and when he woke up from his coma after about a month, he found that he had a tracheostomy fitted and was told that he may not be able to walk again unaided. He had to use an alphabet board to communicate. He had lost a substantial amount of weight and was constantly at risk of infection. He was unable to swallow food and doctors told Andrew that it may take him a year to recover.
Stewarts first visited Andrew on 8 December 2017. His recovery was slow and during his time in hospital he was not in a position to manage his financial affairs. With no family to help him, he did not know who to turn to. Andrew had fallen into debt with several creditors and was struggling to cope. When Andrew was eventually discharged, with no social care plan in place and no financial provisions, he was overwhelmed by his circumstances and started to question whether he even wanted to survive.
Having already met Stewarts and been told what help the Legal Service could provide, Andrew received an email from our Pro Bono team. Being alone in such a desperate situation and with so many immediate needs, he decided to contact Stewarts and ask for some advice in relation to one of his creditors.
Since then, Stewarts has helped Andrew take control of his debts and finances and provided support through his recovery. Our Pro Bono team has provided advice in relation to welfare benefits and issues with the Department of Work and Pensions, as well as using its network to find charities and social facilities to help Andrew start coping emotionally. Andrew’s biggest concern was his financial vulnerability and the Pro Bono team was able to arrange for him to receive food vouchers from Tesco so that the worry of living day-to-day was no longer such a concern. It also took on the responsibility of liaising with Andrew’s creditors, which gave him the space and time to start focusing on his recovery.
Stewarts has managed to relieve a lot of Andrew’s financial burden and, with the help of charities such as StepChange, the unexpected financial strain of suffering a life-changing injury has been lifted. With the ongoing support of the Pro Bono team, Andrew can now find enjoyment in day-to-day life again. Having gone through “a near death experience with all the bells and whistles”, as Andrew put it, he is now able to walk unaided and is well enough now to use his extensive communication skills to bring around intervention and empowerment to those in need. Andrew has said that the support Stewarts gave him “has enabled him to be even more passionate about the things he always was and made him unimaginably grateful to be alive”.
“The consistency of Stewarts’ help through all these months has been personal, yet I have always felt so comfortable in sharing the intimacies that are folk’s finances when one is accompanied by ill health,” Andrew says. “Never mind the help you are giving me today, you came to see me in the intensive care unit. I will never forget that. The foundation of all this was about compassion and understanding. The very thing you need when you are so very ill is that. You saved my life, right there.”
Andrew continued: “I faced huge obstacles which I couldn’t see any way around. Stewarts gently enabled me, guided and navigated a way around these obstacles to a secure, sustainable and realistic outcome. They were patient in the way they got information to me and gave me the time and space to get the information back to them. I felt as though my welfare came first to Stewarts, which was confidence building, and this is an important thing when your confidence is knocked the way mine was. Everything the team did for me was worked around my condition with understanding and patience, this empowered and enabled me.”
This article was published as part of ‘The Legal Service Newsletter’. The Legal Service is provided by Stewarts’ pro bono team as part of the firm’s commitment to help people with serious injury. The service offers free advice to patients when they need it most.
To make a referral to The Legal Service, please contact Kara Smith by phone on 020 7822 8000 or by email at email@example.com.
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Life beyond injury
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