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GP Referral Scheme helps George on road back from brink

09 December 2019

A Claudy farmer who came close to losing his life in a farming accident last year has hailed the role of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s GP Referral Scheme in his miraculous rehabilitation.

George Haslett was overcome by slurry fumes while working at his Ballyhanedin Road farm in June 2018 and spent almost a month in a coma in Altnagelvin Hospital.

The 45 year-old father of one has had to learn to learn to speak, walk and eat again but his road to recovery has been accelerated by working on a fitness plan with GP Referral Coach at the Foyle Arena Rosie O’Brien.

“My family were being asked about donating my organs, that’s how far gone I was,” he recalls. 

“My life has changed a lot, I spent nine months in hospital after the accident and I was still in a wheelchair 12 months ago.

“Coming back from that has been like being born as a child again, being fed and learning how to talk and walk.” 

Before his life changing accident George led an active lifestyle juggling his responsibilities on the family farm with a full time job.

“Farming is very active so I was reasonably fit, I was a keen cyclist when I was younger and had returned to it in 2013.

“I would have done 30 miles on a Sunday morning before church and two weeks before my accident I had climbed Slieve Donard with the Boy’s Brigade.

“I worked as a Contract Manager in a Disc Factory, I would have been up at 5am to work on the farm, then got changed and out to do a full day’s work before going back out again in the evening after work.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get active again and in the last 12 weeks I’ve noticed a big change in my fitness and wellbeing.   

“Positivity is a big part of my recovery, you can’t feel sorry for yourself, I am blessed that my condition is improving, there are many people whose condition is getting worse.”

The GP Referral Scheme allows doctors, physios, social workers and mental health workers to refer candidates onto the ‘steps to health programme’.

Medical conditions that can be referred to on the program are diabetes type 1 and type 2, pre diabetes, BMI, muscular skeletal disorders, mild to moderate mental health conditions and respiratory conditions.

In the first eight weeks, clients will be offered two sessions with a trainer per week and access to all other facilities within the leisure centres’ including swimming pools.

At the end of the eight week programme, reduced membership rates are available for the next four months to encourage clients to continue their progress.

“The programme has been a godsend for me,” George continued. “The centre is close to my home in Claudy and I’m able to get a lift with my neighbour or get the Easy Link bus that leaves me at the front door of the Foyle Arena.

“I bring my lunch with me and I can do some work in the gym, have something to eat and use the pool, I’ve got to know all the staff and they are very friendly and accommodating.

“Regular exercise has made me more conscious about my diet as well because you don’t want to undo your work in the gym by eating badly.

“I would recommend the programme to anyone who is experiencing health issues, I came here with low fitness, strength and reactions and they have all improved.

“I started out doing 400 metres on the treadmill and I’m up to three quarters of a mile now, I’m doing well on the bike too and I’ve lost a stone in weight.

“It gives me a great sense of purpose to get out of the house and come here to do my training.

“The road to recovery is a long one and I would like to thank every nurse, doctor and physio who has worked with me to get me to this point and all the staff in the Foyle Arena, they have all been a brilliant help.”

George’s coach at the Foyle Arena, Rosie O’Brien said he was the perfect candidate for the programme.

“The Steps To Health programme aims to improve physical, social and mental health wellbeing,” she said.

“Barriers for George would be his balance but he’s doing really well and uses most of the inclusive equipment in the gym that is adaptable for all users.

“He has shown great determination to improve his fitness levels and he has benefitted from the social aspect of coming into the Foyle Arena and mixing with other gym members and staff.”

For full details of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Leisure Facilities visit derrystrabaneleisure.com.