Former Howard Primary School caretaker Colin White, left partially paralysed after fall, makes heartfelt call for help to transform his Bury St Edmunds home.
A former school caretaker who was left partially paralysed after a fall has made a heartfelt plea for help to transform his home so he can look out on to his beloved garden.
Colin White, 56, fell down the stairs at his Bury St Edmunds home at about 4am on December 16 last year – damaging the central spinal chord in his neck – and was unable to move any part of his body.
In four seconds, he and his family’s lives ‘completely changed’ and after surgery and months of treatment in hospital, Colin has some movement in his hands and can walk a few steps with support.
However, he is virtually bed and chair ridden at his home, in McIntyre Walk, and his family are fund-raising and issuing a call for help to build a conservatory at the back of the house so he can look out on to the garden which he loved tending to.
Sitting in their front room, where Colin lay in bed, his wife of 36 years Jo said: “If he had a conservatory, he wouldn’t be stuck there watching telly all day.
“You could sit there watching the birds in the garden because you used to love your garden didn’t you.
“It would lift Colin’s mood and it would completely change his life.”
The couple estimate that they need to raise about £10,000 to £15,000 to build the conservatory as well alter the home’s back entrance to make it wheelchair accessible.
They have already generated £2,500 through various activities including a quiz organised by Jo’s colleagues at West Suffolk Hospital, where she works as a nursing assistant.
Colin was a caretaker at Howard Community Primary for 18 years and the school recently held a bake off, which Colin judged. It is holding a community bingo night on November 14.
The couple are also appealing for help from any builders, who would be willing to offer their time and materials to help with the ground work and building.
Any help would provide a much-needed boost for the couple following a year of anguish after that life-changing December night.
Colin remembers: “I went out with the teachers for a Christmas do at Center Parcs and we had a lovely night.
“I came in, went upstairs to bed, lay beside my wife and was telling her all about it.
“I got out to go to the toilet, my wife heard a bang at about 4am and there I was at the bottom of the stairs.”
Jo, 54, said: “We think he was sleep walking and just misjudged where he was, stepped into mid air and went down face first.
“He was in a heap at the bottom. I honestly thought he had died. I tried to get you to move but you said you couldn’t move anything.”
Colin, who is now classed as a tetraplegic, added: “Just like that in a matter of four seconds, it has completely changed our lives.”
He was initially taken to West Suffolk Hospital and was transferred to Addenbrooke’s for an operation.
Within a few weeks, some movement returned to his fingers and toes.
Colin then spent four months at a rehab unit in Sheffield, where he received daily physio.
“He’s now able to walk a few steps with assistance,” Jo said.
“He uses an electric wheelchair to go out and about but his hands are severely affected.
“He’s getting some movement in his hands but they will never work like they did so the DIY and everything that he was into he can’t do anymore.
“He can manage to feed himself with a feeding strap so he can operate a spoon or fork but he can’t wash or dress himself.”
Jo now works part time to help care for Colin, who used to enjoy fishing and woodwork and helped with woodwork classes at Howard Primary.
The couple, who have a 24-year-old son Craig, also enjoyed long walks.
Fighting back tears, when asked how the accident has changed their lives, Jo said: “It’s an awful thing to say, obviously we still love and care for each other, I’ve sort of lost my husband.
“Things that we used to enjoy doing like going out for dinner and being in the garden because Colin can’t access the back garden at all.”
Colin said: “I just feel useless really, I can’t do anything.”
Full story and photos from Paul Derrick at the Bury Free Press: Former Howard Primary School caretaker Colin White, left partially paralysed after fall, makes heartfelt call for help to transform his Bury St Edmunds home