£50,000 to be raised for Northampton man, who suffered life-changing injury on holiday, to return home after a year
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A fundraising page has been set up to make a Northampton man’s home accessible enough for him to return home, after suffering a life-changing injury on holiday earlier this year.
Tom Spina, 47, went on holiday in April with his wife Sophie and son Gabriel, who was eight at the time, after they had to shield during the pandemic.
As Sophie has stage four follicular lymphoma, they had to shield and after restrictions were lifted, the family went on holiday to Cyprus.
Holly Russell, Tom’s sister-in-law, said: “They were so excited and I remember them sharing the loveliest picture waiting to board the plane.”
However, on April 9, Tom hit his head on the bottom of a swimming pool and had to have a life-saving operation in Cyprus – with only a 30 percent chance of survival.
The 47-year-old had experienced fractures to his neck, which caused a spinal cord injury and compromised a main artery, meaning he could not move his arms or legs.
The water from the swimming pool had already begun to affect his lungs, and the Cyprian hospital did not believe the injuries and complications were survivable.
Following the phone call to family to tell them about Tom’s accident, phone calls were then made to say goodbye.
“We were in complete disbelief and did not process what was happening,” said Holly. “We still haven’t processed it now.
“It is a running joke that Tom is a cat with nine lives. He nearly lost an arm years ago, and damaged his foot when he was out with friends on another occasion.
“I spoke to Tom’s brother, Nick, and he was adamant he would be fine as it was in his character to have accidents – until we received the phone calls to say goodbye and he was in bits.”
However, Tom was then transferred to a specialist hospital on the other side of Cyprus, who agreed to operate and attempt to save him – though there was a risk of compromising his remaining artery, which he would not have survived.
Tom believed it was better to “die trying” than not to undergo the surgery at all.
“It was the longest 13 hours of our lives,” said Holly, who received a text message from her sister Sophie to say Tom had survived the surgery.
Tom was on a ventilator in intensive care following the operation, which he remained on for several weeks.
Following a month in hospital in Cyprus, Tom was airlifted back to Northampton where he spent another month in the intensive care unit and a further two waiting for a rehabilitation bed at the National Spine Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital – where he is now receiving long-term physiotherapy.
Eight months on from the accident, he remains at Stoke Mandeville but preparations are underway for him to come home. If everything goes to plan, by the time he leaves it will have been around a year since his life-changing accident.
In order for Tom to return home, the house needs to be made accessible – as well as allowing him to lead as independent a life as possible.
It will require the creation of an accessible driveway and wheelchair access to the front and rear of the house, a special profiling bed, and a through floor lift to make their bathroom accessible.
He will also require an accessible vehicle, an electric wheelchair and further rehabilitation and physiotherapy – and this is why the fundraising page, with a goal of £50,000, is needed.
The family has been keen to set up a fundraising page for a while, as many people reached out to help since hearing about the accident.
Tom and Sophie’s home, in Hunsbury, was assessed and so much needs to be done to make it accessible. This made them concerned over losing their house, which they only moved into before the pandemic and spent a lot of money making it their forever home.
Holly said: “They’re so humble and fiercely independent that they wanted to cover the costs themselves and not accept the help from those who love them so dearly.
“They can’t keep worrying about losing the house, and Tom could go into a care home if the changes have not been made before he is discharged.”
Despite the page only having been set up for a week, it has already raised £14,000.
“We’ve rarely seen Tom upset since the accident, but the fact £14,000 has already been raised made him emotional,” said Holly. “None of us can believe people’s generosity. We’re speechless.”
Holly told Chronicle & Echo that Tom is “adamant” that he is going to drive again and return to work, and the family knows he has the willpower to do it. When the fundraising total goes up, it changes his day.
“Having support from others makes his dark days bright again,” said Tom’s sister-in-law. “He fights harder and pushes himself to make progress.
“We cannot put into words what it would mean to raise £50,000. We are never going to have the Tom back from before the accident, but it will allow us to get as close to that as we can hope for.”
Tom remains in a wheelchair but can breathe for himself without a ventilator. However, it is believed he will never walk again.
He has suffered no brain injuries, but his movement is limited. Although he has some movement at the shoulders, elbows and wrists, he has limited mobility.