Joey's Story

Joey's Story

During Mental Health Awareness Week we look at the work of our Clinical Health Psychology team. Joey is just one patient who benefitted.

We are sure that many of you will remember our amazing ambassador and brave young patient, Joey the Legend. Joey made the most amazing recovery, not least down to the huge amount of heart and determination put in by Joey and his family. The family also benefited from the work of our Clinical Health Psychology team, including Melanie Thomas, our Music Therapist.

In November 2018, Joey suffered from a brain haemorrhage due to an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Joey fell ill after being dropped off at school by his mum, Karen and was quickly rushed to Alder Hey.

After having life-saving surgery, Joey required the support of a multi-disciplinary team at Alder Hey and made a remarkable recovery. Joey and his family were so inspired by the care they received, they decided to raise funds for Alder Hey Charity.

As a family, they love music, so it was a natural fit for music to become a big part of Joey’s recovery. From regular sessions with cellist and Arts for Health practitioner, Georgina Aasgaard, to Music Therapy with Melanie Thomas, music paved the way for Joey to develop his confidence, communication and movement as well as managing the anxiety and worry for them all, as a family.

Joey told us “The first music session I remembered was feeling the vibrations of a ukulele on my bed, it was a nice feeling as I couldn’t feel anything else in my body at that time. I loved dad and Georgina playing “mum’s song” as it made me happy; it is a song we sing at home that dad wrote for mum when she was pregnant with me. I couldn’t speak at this point, so it was like talking through music. I also had sessions with Mel, who brought iPad with a music app. I showed her my garage band app and I made songs for the Alder Hey staff and we danced. I loved mixing tunes and playing them for the nurses.”

Joey also accessed psychological support at the time, through regular appointments with Gemma Foat-Smith, a Clinical Health Psychologist with the major trauma and rehabilitation teams.

Joey explained “I was very anxious at first and so talking with Gemma made me realise that this was ok. Anxiety is part of recovery when you’ve had a big injury like this. I liked doing the Comics Youth group too and made a journal of my Alder Hey journey and how it felt at the different stages. This was a good way of accepting my injury without having to talk about it.”

Mum and dad, Karen and Nick describe their experience of their journey with Joey at Alder Hey. “This chapter of our life was such a rollercoaster. We know that this is a cliche, but it is so true. When we first came to Alder Hey, we were met with the news that we may lose our little boy. After a while, when he went from being critical, we had a whole different journey. We embraced the rehab and embraced all that was being done for him to ensure he regained as much as possible.

We spent about 4 months at Alder Hey and they became our family. Every team made us part of Joeys care and included us in what they were doing. Although it is every parent’s worst nightmare, we made the most of our time there and grew to love it. We love coming back for appointments as it feels like coming home!

The worries we encountered changed on a daily or weekly basis... we went from worrying if he would ever speak, walk, have a partner/family of his own to worrying about bullying when he returned to school, if he’d live independently or recover fully. It was certainly a big emotional journey.

One of our initial discussions away from Joey was would we have him repeat his current school year (he was in year 6 at the time) and we didn’t want to upset Joey by discussing this too soon. However, he brought the conversation up one day by asking if he would have to go back to reception as he’d forgotten everything... this was such a light up bulb moment that his little mind was on his recovery and he was willing to put the work in! Another moment was before he could actually talk, he had a laminated keyboard and would spell things for us if we didn’t know what he was saying; one day we were talking about how he will get better, and he started to type “ D...E...T...E...R...M...” we couldn’t believe it and interrupted him (which he hated!) because we were so overjoyed that he was determined to get better!”

Public donations and grants awarded to Alder Hey Charity funded the provision of a Music Therapist, sessions with our Ward Musician Georgina Aasgaard, and the Comic Youth project cited by Joey. Thanks to our supporters, they collectively supported Joey and his family’s wellbeing and mental health throughout their time at Alder Hey.



Look out for a series of reports featuring Mental Health Services at Alder Hey on BBC NorthWest Tonight running 10th-16th May on BBC1 and on iPlayer.

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