Ben: “You’re the Charity’s entire focus… it’s not something you’d experience anywhere else”

Ben Bailey, an Acting Crew Manager with East Sussex FRS and one of our Station Reps, shares his experiences of receiving our support following physical injuries.

Every one of our beneficiaries’ recoveries from a physical injury can differ hugely, so tailoring our support to them as individuals is essential.

That tailored approach is central to our support offering – both online and in our centres – and something Ben Bailey, an Acting Crew Manager with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, has experienced on more than one occasion.

However, none of it would have been possible without your ongoing donations. Ben, 46, who is one of our valued Station Reps, first approached us in 2011 following a skiing accident in which he cracked five vertebrae in his back.

“I wasn’t doing anything crazy, I just made a small mistake,” says Ben. “Luckily I didn’t have any issues with my spinal cord.

“I got in touch with you when I got back and was offered a stay at Harcombe House. It was just fantastic, everyone was so professional, really friendly, and really knowledgeable.

“The atmosphere is really special.”

Ben was able to return to work soon after, with exercises he could continue at home to ensure he kept on top of his physiotherapy, but unfortunately he went on to suffer another injury a year later – this time, a dislocated neck.

“I had to have an emergency operation where they removed a disc that had herniated,” he recalls. “I’ve now got a ceramic cage between my vertebrae and my neck.

“I was lucky enough to go up to Jubilee House that time, and it was an incredible experience.

“They had me doing very, very specific exercises, completely tailored to me. The overriding feeling I’ve had each time is that you are the Charity’s entire focus for the period of time you’re there… you don’t have to worry about anything other than just turning up to whatever is in the programme and focusing on relaxing and your rehabilitation.

“It’s not something you’d experience in this way except at this Charity’s centres – you can’t get that as an outpatient with the NHS or even through a private physio you see once a week.”

Ben adds: “I made huge progress on both visits. I was given exercises that I would never have done or even known about.

“I had been in a brace for a long time, so I had a lot of muscle atrophy and that really affected my confidence in my head stability. My neck was so weak and your head is very heavy! The stay helped with that confidence.

“They also had me doing a test at the end of the weeks, which showed my recovery and was instrumental in getting me back on the run.”

Having seen the difference our support can make, Ben was also able to recommend his wife, Nerissa, get in touch with us more recently after she broke her back.

She was invited to Marine Court in Littlehampton as an outpatient and has received several appointments to aid her in her recovery.

Now Ben hopes to spread awareness of the support on offer to his colleagues – and the importance of donating regularly to ensure we can remain there for them and their families in the future.

“I was a Station Rep many years ago, around the time of my back injury, and have stayed very involved with the Charity since. I’m now Station Rep at Hove,” says Ben.

“For me, it’s not just about raising the money, it’s also about talking to people on station about my experience and the help that’s available to them.

“I’d advise anyone to make sure they’re giving a monthly donation, where they can. Not everyone wants to ask people for money, so I donate monthly by direct debit – it’s the first thing that comes out of my pay each month, so I never miss that money.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for My Fire Fighters Charity now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab.

You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in the app, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.