Copywriter, Editor & Journalist
As a boy I used to dream of playing for Chelsea FC but then at the age of ten in July 1973 I suffered a near-fatal, life-changing brain haemorrhage.
Thankfully, my parents refused to accept the ‘terminal case’ label allocated me by the medical profession during my seven-week coma. Faith, hope and love, and laughter, have sustained me on the long and arduous road of rehabilitation.
One of the best things I ever did was to resign from a tedious clerical job in London in September 1987 to further my education. But after emerging with a respectable Honours degree in Computer Studies, I vowed never again to program a computer. I then started writing and submitting articles for publication.
From 1993 to 2000, I had features and press releases on disability, economic and health issues, and the real ales of two West country micro breweries, published in both UK and international journals. A garage full of flavoursome home-brewed real ale also made me the most popular man in the neighbourhood!
Then in May 2000, I left Tisbury to take up an Editor post at The Leprosy Mission (TLM) in Peterborough. In this role, I commissioned, edited and produced all of TLM’s print, web and audio material as well as travelling frequently to South and South-East Asia for interview and photography purposes. Fondest memories of Cambridgeshire have to be Friday nights in the Bell Inn, Stilton - the best pub in England - with Liam, the master of the house!
But 29 years of dragging my feet with a stooped gait had affected my spine and in May 2002, I started experiencing shooting pains in my lower back. By the autumn, my condition had deteriorated and my search for answers had stonewalled. The daily cocktail of painkillers failed to ease the constant sciatic pain, sleep was impossible, getting dressed took two hours and the agony of walking just a few yards sapped all energy levels.
After a ‘pain relief’ session with two community physiotherapists in Peterborough, I couldn’t walk for two days. I was fast losing all confidence in the NHS.
I then received an invitation to attend Miss Helen Fernandes’ clinic at the Neurosciences’ Department of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Thinking this to be another fruitless physiotherapy session, I took a carrier bag containing shorts and a T-shirt.
But when I met the attractive and impeccably dressed Miss Fernandes, who understood my pain, it dawned on me that she was no physiotherapist.
‘You’ll need another MRI scan Simon, then I’ll be sure about surgery. Basically, I’ll need to re-route the problem nerves in your lower spine and perform a bone graft. This is a major, risky operation,’ she’d told me.
Five months later on the morning after my six-hour operation, a smiling Helen Fernandes walked around my bed, clutched my right hand and said,
‘It’s so good to see you smiling again, Simon! There was alot of swearing when I had trouble inserting those last two screws into your back, but the operation was successful.’
‘Thank you so much!’ I beamed, ‘Look. It’s amazing! I haven’t been able to lie flat on a bed for over five years.’
Two days later when I stood up, it felt as though a telegraph pole had been inserted into my back, but it was bliss to walk upright again on my heels and without any pain. A miracle and one of my happiest memories - courtesy of the NHS!
I resigned from TLM 18 months later and went freelance. Then I married my finacée, Lexi, in December 2004 in Satigny, a village near Geneva renowned for its excellent Gamaret red wine. A strong Christian faith and lots of laughter are key to our happily married life.
In June 2006, I embarked on a Masters' degree by distance-learning and graduated with an MA in Journalism (with Distinction) at Imperial College, London 13 months later. I like to write every day and am a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Association of Christian Writers (ACW).