Clint Charles, 49, a police officer from Dunstable, nearly lost his life on January 15, 2016 in a motorcycle accident which left him with a broken neck, broken upper right arm and right shoulder, broken ribs, two punctured lungs, lacerations in his liver and multiple bleeds on his brain. Clint ‘died’ three times at the scene before being airlifted to Addenbrookes Hospital.
When he regained consciousness, Clint was told the bleeds on his brain had caused strokes on both sides of his body and a catastrophic injury to his brain had affected his balance and co-ordination. His broken neck had been fused with two metal rods fixed to his skull and spine C1 to C4 and he was initially paralysed.
Clint spent four months in hospital before being transferred to Northwick Park Rehabilitation Centre in Harrow where he spent two months.
By the time Clint returned home on May 25, 2016 he was extremely weak and couldn’t turn his head left or right or look up and down. He could only move very slowly and take just a step or two with the support of sticks. His balance and co-ordination were also severely compromised.
Long road ahead
“I knew I had a very long road ahead of me and no-one could say how much I would recover or how quickly,” recalls Clint. “I was working with an excellent physio in Watford but they realised I needed more specialist rehab and recommended me to Neurokinex in Hemel Hempstead which specialises in rehabilitation from spinal cord injury. Even better, Neurokinex offers its first six sessions for free on the NHS enabling me to try its programme before committing to the cost.
“The NHS scheme is second to none and there was no waiting list. I arrived at Neurokinex on April 20th 2017 and the moment I met the team, I knew I was in the right hands,” says Clint. “When I started at Neurokinex I couldn’t do a lot really: I was walking with sticks, my balance was extremely poor, my gait was awful and I fell three or four times a day. My whole body was weak and I had little muscle strength.
“Neurokinex push me to my limits but it’s exactly the challenge I respond to. It hurts and I have to dig deep to keep going but I know that the more effort I put in, the quicker I’ll progress,” says Clint. “Some days I have to push through a lot of pain but the Neurokinex team are with me every step of the way and they know how much I can – and should – take. Neurokinex said I had to learn how to fall and stand up again! Accepting I would fall but knowing I could get myself back up again really helped. The improvement in my balance, co-ordination and stamina now means I fall far less often these days – I had to get past the phase by tackling it not avoiding it.”
Clint goes to Neurokinex regularly and is still improving his mobility, co-ordination and functional skills. He is now able to walk slowly and is continuing to build strength in his weak limbs while also working on extending his range of movement in his neck, spatial awareness and co-ordination. With the help from Neurokinex, Clint has restored his confidence and independence.”
Regaining independence and confidence are key to Clint who wanted to be able to look after his two young sons – Isaac, 8, and Jacob, 5. “I currently live alone while my partner and I find somewhere suitable to live and my children are with me every weekend and during the holidays,” says Clint. “The boys are really good and we have an extremely close relationship. Jacob doesn’t know me any different, but Isaac had to adjust to my change of circumstances which was sad and hard for us both.”
Returning to work
Clint returned to work in March 2018 after two years away. Previously a plain clothes police officer with a very active role, he now works at Hendon training the new recruits. “Before my accident I policed drug dealers, drug users, carried out drug raids and had to manage anti-social behaviour crime and disorder,” says Clint. “Obviously I couldn’t return to that role and I clearly remember the then-commission Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe visiting me to find out what my plans and hopes were regarding my return to work. We both knew I couldn’t resume my old duties but he promised there would be a role for me at Hendon. He retired before I was ready to return to work, but his successor Cressida Dick fully honoured what he put forward and for that I am thankful.” Clint started off with just three hours one day a week as his health complications restricted him to that. He gradually gained more strength and mobility through his continued work with Neurokinex to the point the police medical officer allowed him to increase his working hours. Clint now works two four-hour days.
“I still have more gains to make in terms of better balance, greater endurance, more stamina and being steadier on my feet,” says Clint. “I still fall occasionally but I just get back up on my feet and get going again.”