Remembering that all claimants are different

Whatever the injury, professionals must never make the mistake of assuming that people with the same, or similar, injuries have the same requirements or desires. It can be tempting to assume that, for example, all paraplegics have the same needs but although there is a basic element of truth in that proposition, it is far from the ideal.

A very good friend of mine told me years ago that one of the best rehabilitated people he had come across spent all her time in bed, even though her disability did not strictly require her to do so; she had found a structure for her life with which she was comfortable, and did not feel inclined to be told by various health professionals that she could or should live differently.

A fairly common example is the selection of suitable accommodation following severe injury. If a person is paralysed, it is very common for all professionals to recommend a bungalow: I frequently do it myself. However, not all people like the idea of living in single storey accommodation, for example because they have to sleep on the ground floor and feel insecure, or because they want to maintain as much normality as possible. If, despite a clear explanation of the difficulties of living in accommodation with stairs, the injured person maintains the desire to do so, then in my opinion the professionals should set about coping with that decision. For example, stair lifts are often easy to install, and one can have a wheelchair on each floor; the rooms still have to be large, to allow easy use of the wheelchair, but that should not be a problem; all the other alterations and adaptations will be pretty much the same whether it is a house or bungalow.

A small piece of advice, given to me by someone who used to be an expert in serious injury, who is herself paralysed, is that the injured person and their family should "never let them say no". "Them" includes lawyers, doctors and experts of all kinds.

This advice is intended to stress that patients very often know best about what they aspire to, and they should not necessarily be dissuaded by well-meaning advice that their goal is impossible or inappropriate. The expert who gave me this advice is a wonderful example of what can be achieved; she has her own home ("the house of her dreams"), worked as an expert travelling the country, has terrific holidays (including on tall ships as a crew member), and considers herself fortunate.