‘I feel like I’ve got my life back’
Dave Evans lives at Gloucestershire House, our care home in Cheltenham for disabled adults. He talks about the benefits of exercise and regaining independence.
I love the chance to get my legs working on the static bikes, exercise machines and the latest equipment. The cardio work out is crucial — getting the legs going quickly and the heart rate up.
I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) in my late twenties and began to use a stick for balance.
The condition got worse but I carried on with my career as a youth worker, taking on managerial roles for youth services in a local authority. I am now 57 years old, with two sons and two grandchildren.
Moving through a difficult period
In 2012 my health worsened significantly and led to six months in a rehabilitation hospital.
CMT affects the nervous system. It is hereditary – my mother and my aunt had it – and it gets gradually worse over time: for me, it has led to a loss of muscle tissue and a loss of sensation.
After coming out of hospital I started a new role with the local authority, managing school admissions. Sadly after a couple of years I was made redundant, though this was not related to my health.
By this time I was living in sheltered accommodation in Bromsgrove, with limited support. I didn’t have many options there. It was a world away from the choice I get nowadays.
I made the move to Gloucestershire House in January 2019 and this is when things started turning around.
I have so much more freedom
When I arrived here, my first thought was, “Wow. This is so much better than the other places I have seen.” There are so many more opportunities here.
In the sheltered accommodation, the carers had to come in at set times and I couldn’t even choose what time I went to bed. I didn’t feel like a grown-up. After further health problems, I knew I had to move on. Now I have so much more freedom. Gloucestershire House encourage people to make their own choices and it boosts their independence.
I get on well with the other residents at Gloucestershire House too. I’ve started hosting a quiz with a great group of people and getting more and more involved with day-to-day life at our home. I’ve found it all to be really positive.
Out and about
Staff at Gloucestershire House have a great attitude, and the opportunities they provide for people to get out and about really make a difference.
I love going to the cinema, going to the pub and exploring Cheltenham. It’s a lovely place.
I’m originally from the West Midlands and I’m in regular contact with my family. I go with my son to every West Brom home game; I’m a lifelong Baggies fan. We sit with a group of supporters who we know well. All of us will follow the team no matter what league we’re in. I love it!
Like any wheelchair user, before I go anywhere I have to think about accessibility. Will there be dropped kerbs? Will there be an accessible toilet? This shouldn’t be the case and the staff at Gloucestershire House have given me advice about campaigning.
I have just started a campaign for more accessible streets in Cheltenham. I’m trying to make the pavements in the local area better for all wheelchair users and pedestrians. Two very helpful councillors met with us – and one made a trip in a wheelchair – so they could see what needs improving.
One of my favourite ways to spend time is to get some exercise; it really helps me feel better. Our new therapy suite, funded by gifts in wills left to Leonard Cheshire, will take my fitness regime to a new level. At the place I was living before, I could go to the gym once a week. Here I exercise four to five times a week. I have lost 15 kilos so far and I am determined to lose more.
I love the chance to get my legs working on the static bikes, exercise machines and the latest equipment. The cardio work out is crucial – getting the legs going quickly and the heart rate up.
I will be going cycling outdoors to get fit too. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the Forest of Dean with Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucestershire Wheels for All project. Soon I should lose enough weight to get in the hydrotherapy pool.
With the fitness opportunities and everything else, Leonard Cheshire and Gloucestershire House work for me. I feel like I’ve got my life back after it was taken away from me.