Tom Watson is one of hundreds of people with all kinds of disabilities helped by Thrive, a small national charity that uses the power of gardening to change lives.
Thrive helps people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities who may be rebuilding their lives after an accident or illness such as a stroke or heart attack; older people looking for practical ways to carry on gardening and ways to support good health; those living with depression or dementia and teenagers dealing with behavioural challenges.
Gardening is infinitely flexible and can be adapted and suited to most needs. It can bring profound change, from improvements in physical or mental health, to adjustments in beliefs, attitudes or behaviours, to the transformation of skills and abilities.
Tom had just turned 18 when his life changed forever. He rolled his car on his way to meet friends to go Christmas shopping. Mum Lynne got stuck in the long traffic jam the accident caused. When she got home police told her Tom had been injured. At hospital she was told to say goodbye.
“He looked horrific,” said Lynne. “He had so many injuries – a broken neck, fractured skull and broken bones. His brain swelled but the large hole in his fractured skull released the pressure on the brain and he continued surviving. I was told he would not walk or talk but thirteen days later – Christmas Day – I took him home in a wheelchair and neck brace to be with the family.”
Tom has a supportive family and many friends, and Lynne believes that it was with this support and love, the rehabilitation and his high level of fitness as a champion wake boarder, that he made such an amazing recovery.
After finishing his studies and travelling, Tom wanted to find work – but with his injuries it wasn’t easy. He liked the idea of being outdoors, and that’s where Thrive came in.
On our ‘Working it Out’ programme at Battersea in London, Tom gained a Level 1 certificate in Horticulture. He said: “Thrive therapists understood my needs. I could no longer use my right arm but instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do we looked at what I could do.“ It was this kind of encouragement that led to Tom gaining his Level 2 in Horticulture.
Lynne added: “Tom has grown in so many ways, Thrive has given him the skills and qualifications to be a contributing and financially able member of society. Thrive has also given him friends and opportunities I only dreamt of. Ever since the accident people told Tom what he wouldn’t be able to do. At Thrive it was completely different, they focused on what Tom could do and if he couldn’t at first, they found ways of making things easier. Thrive has given Tom a life. He has a career, earns money and has a purpose. Charities like Thrive are a lifeline for so many people.”
Tom is now 25 and lives with his Danish girlfriend Sandie in Staines. He has a full time job working for a garden landscaping business.
Pictured. Top: Tom in action. Bottom: Tom with his mum, Lynne.
In 2010 8,533 young men aged 17 -19 were casualties in road traffic accidents (Dept of Transport, Road Accidents and Safety Annual Report). Thrive can support people recovering from accidents and help them rebuild their lives. It costs just £50 a week for someone like Tom to come to Thrive and £24,000 to run our Working it Out Programme for a year.