Helping Linda to find renewed purpose after a life-changing fall
For the last two decades, Linda has been a regular respite visitor at the Halcon Centre in Taunton, Somerset Care’s specialist residential centre for those living with physical disabilities. After a tragic accident changed the course of her future, Linda has found specialist support, friendship and a renewed zest for life thanks to the Centre’s dedicated team and her fellow residents.
Born with dwarfism, Linda quickly developed a determination to work hard, succeed and forge her own path in life, an outlook which has remained with her even since her accident. From a young age, Linda developed a real affinity with horses, who she says ‘don’t treat you any differently’ for who you are or what you look like, but only respond to how you treat them. Linda’s passion for horses led to her becoming a qualified riding instructor, supporting children and their families to learn to ride, and sharing her love of these majestic animals.
After moving to the West Country in the 1980s, Linda was approached by a film crew who were seeking a stunt double horse rider for actor Warwick Davis. Many of the scenes featuring Warwick’s character, Willow, required him to be on horseback. As Warwick had not yet conquered his self-professed fear of horses, Linda was asked to saddle up, put on an identical costume and ride in his place.
Whilst a complete change of direction for Linda, she embraced the opportunity as a new challenge, and began filming. Sadly, it was during this exciting time that tragedy struck at home. When Linda’s horse stumbled on a routine ride from her home, she was thrown off and immediately knew that she had done some serious damage. Linda had broken her neck, and spent the next 12 months in a specialist hospital spinal unit.
Learning to accept help
It was during this time that Linda says she had to learn to accept help, rather than be the one offering help as she had done during her career as a riding instructor. Learning to rely on others for support didn’t come easy for Linda, who had been very independent prior to her fall. She explains how leaving hospital and discovering the Halcon Centre shaped the next chapter of her life:
“I felt very vulnerable after my accident, which knocked my confidence as well as causing lasting injury. I now had to get used to asking others for help, and was unable to do many of the things that I had loved doing before.
“When I left hospital, it was suggested that a respite stay at the Halcon Centre would be beneficial for me. The first time that I visited the Centre, I admit that I was terrified. You come to rely on and trust the people who have been providing your care, and this was an entirely new experience for me, where I would be supported by a new group of people in a new environment. I needn’t have worried – the Halcon team were so welcoming and really took the time to understand the support I needed, and get to know me as a person.”
“I have now been visiting the Halcon Centre for respite stays for almost 20 years, and I cannot recommend the place or the people highly enough. Not only do they recognise and look out for your individual needs, the team allow you to feel useful, to feel that you have a purpose, and I can personally attest to the positive difference this makes to your confidence and self-belief.”
Thanks in part to the support Linda has received from the Halcon Centre, along with her restored confidence and positive outlook on life, she has been able to rekindle her love of horses by taking this passion in a new direction. A former founding member, committee member and riding instructor of the Chard & District Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) prior to her accident, Linda is now a Trustee of the Forde Abbey RDA, and has been pivotal in setting up the local carriage driving group. This group has enabled Linda to once again experience the joy of spending time in the company of horses and share this passion with others.
Discovering a home from home
Two decades after her first visit, Linda shares what the Halcon Centre means to her:
“Halcon is more than just a respite centre. For its many users it is a second home. This is because you get the same level of high-quality care and attention there as you do from your own family. On arriving for respite care you are greeted by a cheery smile from all, and by name – they never forget you.
“Because that’s what Halcon is, a family. The staff there are all excellent at their jobs, but it is more than that. They really care. At Halcon no one is ever too busy to be there for you if you need help or even if you just need someone to notice that you’re feeling down. The staff work exceptionally hard and ensure that everyone who stays there feels that they are important and that they, as individuals, matter. This starts at the top with Kevin the manager, and continues throughout his whole team.
“Each and every member of staff is a true shining example and together they make an outstanding team. Along with all of the other respite and long-term residents at Halcon, I hold them in the highest esteem and hope they realise how important they are to us and how highly we value them.”
“Somerset Care have looked after me ever since I left hospital, and I cannot thank them enough. I know first-hand how vital their care services are, and want to do my bit to tell others how incredibly important carers are.”
Getting it right
“Like the Croft sherry advert from many years ago said, ‘one instinctively knows when something is right’. The Halcon team has definitely got it right. They are an inspiration and I am delighted to call each and every one of them my friend.”