Student Life as Hamish Thompson – 2017/18
I am now living the student life and loving most of it.
In 2015 I passed my A Levels and secured a place at Falmouth University (my University of choice).
As was my plan I took a gap year so that I could to get ready for University, look to learn to drive an adapted vehicle and gain some work experience. This year ended up being far more challenging than I had anticipated. The adapted vehicle which I tried to learn to drive in had a number of issues and proved to be unreliable. It broke down the day before my English A level final which meant I was not sure if I would be able to get to college to sit the exam. This caused an enormous amount of stress and had a big impact on my results. I lost trust in the vehicle and ultimately decided learning to drive was not that important.
I did gain some work experience reviewing and commenting on film scripts provided by DJ Films which was very interesting.
The biggest challenge was getting my care sorted for university. Working through the maze of funding, costs and who should be responsible for what is a total minefield. This led us all to conclude that no disabled person could have ever gone to university before! Nobody seems to know how this should work or what needed to be done. If it were not for charitable organisations I would never have been able to get to university. I would like to thank the Snowdon Trust and the Vivian Moon Foundation in particular for their significant support in assisting with additional costs incurred due to my situation.
The start of my university life was very difficult as the appointed care agency was unable to provide any details of the carers I would have just three days before I arrived. They even suggested I delayed going to university while they tried to source carers although they had been aware of my needs for 6 months. As always, I had to just push on with the amazing help and support from my Mum and Dad. Falmouth University accommodation team managed to have the required hoist installed in my room the day before I arrived. Mum and Dad booked a week in a holiday cottage nearby to ensure I had a backup while getting used to being cared for by total strangers and starting to live independently.
The university accommodation is arranged in blocks of 7 bedrooms and a communal kitchen. The rooms accessible to me consist of two standard rooms having part of the wall between them removed and a wet room installed in one of the bathrooms. As I needed a carers room as well this meant that there were only 4 other student rooms available in our block. The 4 other students are great and we have all become firm friends. Being slightly older than the others I am the “father figure” of the flat!
Unfortunately the care agency appointed to provide my care were very bad at communication and organisation, meaning that I never knew until the last minute what was happening with the change in staff and only received profiles of the replacement carers just before they arrived. The carers seem to be brought in from other parts of the world and many did not know anything about the local area or how things work in the UK. As the day and night carers had to share the same bedroom this meant that one of the carers had to sit in the communal kitchen all the time while the other was sleeping. Each time the care changed I would have to show them around the campus and teach them what to do. There was no continuity of care.
I became so frustrated with the situation and the stress this was causing that eventually I refused to talk to the agency and referred all communications to my parents. After a lot of hard work, time and effort we were able to change agencies to a local provider and things have much improved. While it is still early days the agency are local, easy to contact and I am building up a regular team of carers.
Apart from the care issues life on campus has been amazing! I am really enjoying what I am doing and have tremendous support from my lecturers and fellow students. This is the best thing I have done in my life and I am at last excited about the future.
I still have multiple appointments with consultants, orthotics and other professionals and need to go to London every 3 months. This involves my parents driving a 5 hours round trip to collect me, take me home for a night and then an 8 hour round trip to London for the appointments. Then I have another night at home and the 5 hour round trip to take me back to university. On the positive side, they do see more of me than if I was an average student.
I am now looking to do an internship at the end of year 2 to give me more work experience before my final year. How this will be achieved with my care and accommodation needs is next year’s challenge! I still love film and music and remain a massive Walt Disney fan.
Where do I start?
Nights are a challenge as I cannot turn myself in bed and have to call for my Mum, and sometimes my Dad as he is away a lot with work, to turn me and resettle me.
I don’t like getting up early in the morning and have to be woken to get ready for college. Sometimes when I can’t get comfortable or am worrying about things I wake really early and ask Mum to get me up then. This can be anytime from 4.30 am onwards.
I need help to lie flat on my back and then use the electric bed to sit me up. First thing I do is to go on my laptop to see what has been going on in the world overnight. This involves checking my email, twitter, news feeds and facebook accounts. I love my stay- in- bed days as I can spend the whole day listening to music online while chatting away and following what is going on out there. When I am not in college I like to watch films, play video games, make films and listen to music. If I need to get up Mum will help dress me and hoist me into my powered wheelchair. I can then brush my teeth and sort my hair.
I love Mum’s cooked breakfast which is always fried egg, hash brown, bacon, white toast and a cup of tea or sometimes coffee. I don’t have much of an appetite and am often happy to only have one meal a day. My favourite food is steak, rare.
Each evening I look forward to my bath as I can chill in the hot water which warms me up. This takes time as I have to be hoisted from my wheelchair onto the toilet seat and then when ready hoisted again into the bath. I have to wait for the bath to empty when I am finished so that I can be hoisted out and then across into my bed.
I love my music. I have been to some local music festivals and would love to go to Glastonbury one year. My top 4 albums are:- The White Album by the Beatles, Discovery by Daft Punk, Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel and Nevermind by Nivana. Quite a wide range, as you can see. I have also started collecting vinyl records as they are so much nicer than just CD’s.
I am studying English Language, IT and Media for my A levels and want to work in the film industry. My top 4 films are:- Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story, Citizen Kane and Finding Nemo.