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126 July 2014

Help Howard Come Home

Spare a few minutes and try to cast your mind back to when you were 16.


What were your dreams, aspirations, desires, priorities, now and in the future? Will you get the grades you need to go to University? How will you possibly afford that first car? Which rock concert or festival will you do this summer. Can you get a Saturday job to help save up for all those things you want to do? Such sixteen year old thoughts and countless more, changed for Howard Wicks on the morning of Halloween in 2011.


That morning, Howard was having a shower to get ready for school. He was a bright pupil at Kingsbridge College, very popular and full of boundless energy. The previous Saturday he played football for his team, Loddiswell AFC. and after that he went to a friend's party, had a great time and as usual, was the life and soul. But on that Halloween morning, Howard finished his shower, walked into the bedroom and collapsed. His family had all left for work, and Howard lay on the floor for 10 hours until his mother, Jo, came home. Howard had suffered a massive stroke and by the time Jezz returned, was completely paralysed.


During weeks of tests at Derriford Hospital, doctors thought he was unconscious and unable to hear or feel anything. Actually, Howard was terrified and desperately trying to tell everyone around him that he was awake. As response tests were undertaken, he was unable to speak, or move any part of his body. He had heard doctors describing him as in a vegetative state - but Howard was screaming out inside, however unable to communicate in any tangible way.


In spite of that, the man Howard had known as a father since the age of three, Jezz, looked Howard in the eyes and said firmly: "I'm convinced that you can hear and see me”. Howard’s eyes were glazed over, but he responded in the only way he could, by holding Jezz in an intense gaze that Jezz says, he will never forget.


Nearly three years have passed, and Howard has spent all of that time in hospital and at a specialist medical centre. Although still unable to speak, he can communicate using a spelling board linked to voice synthesis computer, where by looking at letters, he creates the words. A demonstration of his determination and bravery is that he is working on writing a book - letter by letter! Howard has regained his ability to swallow and smile and through a tailored exercise regime, via a special piece of kit called a FES bike, is now able to sit unsupported for minutes at a time. Howard knows this is a long journey, but he also knows it starts with small steps!


The local community have been brilliant in their support and generosity. Businesses, individuals and social organisations have selflessly devoted time, money and energy in many fundraising initiatives. Among these, the group 'Hope for Howard' was formed, who have run events such as a sponsored walk and a ‘Day for Howard' which was a marvellous musical event in the quay in Kingsbridge, featuring local bands and other entertainment. Money raised in these events has really helped in so many ways and especially towards buying and fitting out a vehicle which is adapted for Howard and his carers needs, so that he can get out and about.


It was at one of these events that Geoff and Simone Lloyd asked what was going on, and were told about Howard. They then discussed the challenge with Neil and Amanda Tregarthen and between them, they created the 'Howard Wicks Trust' and raised money in London, for Howard's future. The main focus was that, when some "re-wiring of Howard's brain," became possible, no matter where in the world, funds would be available to get Howard enrolled!


Now, it’s time for Howard to come home to Kingsbridge. Because of the costs involved in acquiring and converting a suitable property for him, it’s looked a non starter for so long, however Neil and Amanda have recently bought a property for Howard to move into and all of a sudden the impossible, has become possible!


Neil and Amanda said, "when we heard about Howard's challenge, we wanted to help and that's where the trust initially came from. But every time we met Hows, we were astonished at his bravery and determination, with the result that, all of a sudden, we'd bought a bungalow in Kingsbridge LOL."


To make the home suitable for Howard to live comfortably and safely, extensive alterations and fitting out are of course, necessary. Howard can get a grant for some of the work, but not enough to cover all the costs, for example, a suitable wheelchair lift will cost £15,000 alone!  Nigel Dalton (MCIAT) and Jeremy Wright, a local architect and builder respectively, have already started work and they are now busy recruiting other tradesmen to chip in and bring the project to fruition. Jeremy believes that with properly detailed specifications, careful execution and the right team, it should be possible to convert the bungalow in time for Howard to move in by the end of the summer. With that in mind, any building supply companies who can offer special terms for this special cause, plus any home furnishings and domestic products suppliers who think they can help, please contact Emma Betteridge via info@hopeforhoward.co.uk<mailto:info@hopeforhoward.co.uk> and the team will get right back to you. To hear more about Howard’s story, please visit www.hopeforhoward.co.uk<http://www.hopeforhoward.co.uk>.


Thanks a million for reading this appeal and hopefully we can all contribute to getting Hows into his new home, asap.

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