Adam Bruce is one in a million. At least, so he tells anyone he shares his story with. The former retained Scottish firefighter from Aberdeenshire says not many people would have survived the accident he was involved in 15 years ago, because the odds were stacked against him. Therefore, he says, he has to be one in a million.
While driving at top speeds down a long stretch of road on his prized motorcycle, Adam swerved, hit the verge and crashed into a tree.
“I can’t remember much about the crash, but I know I’m a very lucky person for surviving it,” he says. “I broke my neck and back in three places and had a very bad brain injury. I spent a year and a half in hospital afterwards.”
Aged just 24 at the time, Adam had been a retained firefighter for six years, fulfilling a lifelong dream to join the fire service. But he was medically discharged after his accident, and had to learn to adjust to a partially disabled life and being confined to a wheelchair for most of the day.
He has since become a familiar face at Jubilee House, our centre in Penrith, visiting once a year to be in the safe hands of the nursing team, who provide round-the-clock care to beneficiaries with extra health needs.
“I knew about the Charity before my accident, because I’d paid so much into the Benevolent Fund from my wages each month,” says Adam. “It wasn’t long after my accident that I asked for help. And I’ve been coming here once a year ever since.”
Despite his injuries, Adam is determined to make improvements whenever he visits the centre, and can regularly be seen on the exercise arm bike: “I go on the bicycle for 30 minutes every week day, doing 6.4miles without stopping. The team also help me to walk without holding onto the wall or to walk across the pool without a float around me. The people here are my favourite thing about coming to Jubilee House.”
Adam has also been supported by the Charity’s Welfare Services Team. They provided him with an exercise bike after seeing how well he did on the one at the centre, but Adam has used it so much it’s worn out and he has since bought a replacement.
He has become a firm favourite with staff and beneficiaries alike, known for his sense of humour, love of hair gel, and ability to thrash anyone he can convince to to sit down and play cards or chess with him.
“Adam is so full of spirit,” says Nursing Services Lead Kath Savage, who Adam is particularly fond of, and is the only person who gets away with calling her Katherine. “He just gets on with everyone at the centre and everyone knows him. He’ll collar anyone to sit and have a go at cards with him, but more fool them, because he beats them all.”
When asked how he’d describe the staff at the centre, Adam’s sense of humour shines through: “Very poor,” he says. “Only joking, they’re all good people. Except Katherine.”
For Adam’s parents, knowing he has somewhere to go once a year offers them a much-needed lifeline. He lives up the road from their house, and is regularly visited by carers.
“It really gives us a break, knowing he’s safe there,” says his dad, Eddie. “As soon as he gets home, he’s anxious to go back, because everyone just gets on so well with him. He has a lovely sense of humour, he’s just a different lad to before the accident. But these things change you.
“A few years ago, Adam was attacked in his own home. People knew he was vulnerable so they broke into his house, stealing his car just to set it on fire, smashing his TV and even stealing his box of snacks. I came round in the morning and thought he’d spilt Ribena up the walls, but then my eyes adjusted to the light and I realised it was blood, and that he was lying on the floor where they’d beaten him up. He thinks he’s invincible, that’s just how he thinks. But we do worry about him. So knowing he’s safe when he goes to Jubilee House, and that he has such a lovely, relaxed rapport with everyone there, it really means a lot to us.
“He’s as bright as a button but his memory is affected, he tires very easily and he’s very weak down his right side. But he’s got a better sense of humour now and he’s a lot more sociable than he was before the accident. The Fire Fighters Charity plays a huge role in his life. I just think it’s amazing that they’re still supporting him 15 years after leaving the service.
“Life changed instantly that day, but we’re lucky, because he might have died. Some people don’t get the second chance that he did.”
Our nursing team provides 24-hour care to beneficiaries attending the centre, providing them the care and assistance to allow their participation in activities. If you’re struggling to adjust to a life-changing diagnosis or injury, let us see if we can help. Call our Support Line today on 0800 389 8820 or enquire via our website.