Case Studies

Stephen Astley is a line fisherman from Newlyn who owns his own boat and has made his living from fishing for most of his life. He’s well known in the area and everyone calls him ‘Cod’.

In March 2016 he was admitted to hospital with progressive sepsis and organ failure. Luckily for Cod, his life was saved but he needed extensive surgery – both legs were amputated at the knee and he lost several fingers. Once out of hospital he started the long road to recovery. He was determined to get back to fishing – it was his life and his livelihood.

That’s where the Society came in.

Cod could function pretty well with his hands but had difficulty gripping or pulling any rope, and he suffered from constant tingling. Walking was a challenge: he needed help getting used to prosthetic legs and building the strength and balance required on a boat.

With funding from the Society, Cod received intensive physiotherapy at Harbourside Physiotherapy Clinic. This included exercises to enable him to walk with his prostheses and improve his strength, classes to relearn how to balance using his prostheses, hand therapy and hydrotherapy. He worked hard at his rehabilitation and can now walk on his prosthetic legs and get around safely indoors and outdoors. He continues to attend a weekly balance class and does targeted exercises at home.

Once back on the boat Cod had another problem. Although he could move around safely, he was unable to catch fish with a line. After a formal assessment by the Society and others, including the local Animateur (a UK-wide programme to support fishermen to access funds and business support that will improve safety, health, sustainability of fishing practices and to enhance business viability and sector collaboration) and RNLI, everyone agreed that with a few adaptations and the provision of a jigging machine, Cod could return to fishing safely. So the Society paid over £2,300 for his boat to be fitted with a ‘jigger’ and he received over £13,000 from the EU Fisheries Fund for the health and safety modifications to his boat.

Throughout this time, the local community supported Cod and his family. Cod has done a lot in return, including mentoring a local young lad with Autism Spectrum Disorder to learn to fish.

Thanks to the Society and our partners, Cod is now happily and safely back on board.

To find out more about Cod’s journey and to see him in action on his boat, watch the video.

Brian Broome was at sea all his working life from the age of 14, first as a merchant seaman, then as a fisherman. In 1960 he changed to mooring vessels, where he spent over 40 years mooring tankers and other large ships. He was at sea for a total of 51 years.

When he retired in 2012 he was in good health and active, but in 2016 he developed type 2 diabetes. Sadly this led to ischaemia – narrowing of the arteries – which resulted in Brian having both legs amputated in Autumn 2018.

Brian made excellent progress after surgery and was transferred to a local cottage hospital in December. He quickly got the hand of using a wheelchair and transferring but was worried about how he would cope when he got home.

The house had a bathroom and toilet downstairs which had been fitted before his wife died, so he didn’t need to go upstairs. But the sitting room really needed attention. The gas fire had been condemned and the carpet was unsuitable for a wheelchair. That’s where the Society stepped in.

We provided Brian with a grant of £470. This covered the cost of fitting laminate flooring in the sitting room and paid for a freestanding electric fire with remote control, making life at home so much easier.

Brian was helped to make his application to the Society by Chrissy King, Fishermen’s Mission Superintendent for South Wales. She acted as advocate for Brian and made sure he got the help he needed. Not only did Chrissy approach us for a grant, but she also referred Brian to SAIL for a full benefits check. As she said: “Allowing retired fishermen like Brian to live out their lives independently and securely is so important. I’ll continue to visit Brian as he adapts to his new life.”

Julie Hicks and her husband Fraser run a tripper boat on the Isles of Scilly. She also works as PA to the Head at the local school. At the end of May 2019 Julie underwent open heart surgery then suffered a stroke which left her paralysed on one side. This was devastating for Julie, the family and their boating business.

Julie said: “I really thought my life was over. In fact on several occasions I even wished I hadn’t been resuscitated. I just felt wretched and hopeless.”

Thanks to the Society Julie has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy with Claire Stevenson and the team at Harbourside Physiotherapy Clinic in Newlyn, and life has really improved. We paid for Julie to have 6 initial sessions followed by a week of intensive treatment a few months later. Her aim is to get back to work on the boat in time for the tourist season.

“I came away from my first session with Claire feeling that I truly dared to have hope. When I went in I could barely walk and the pain was immense. I was on very strong painkillers, including morphine patches, and could hardly string a sentence together. Over the past 6 months we’ve worked on the movement in my arm, shoulder and hand and I’ve gradually reduced my meds. I feel so much better. And now I can actually walk – all thanks to Claire.”

Julie was also diagnosed with PTSD and, thanks to a referral from Ceri Summers at Fairwinds, is now undergoing counselling. She said: “I still have a way to go but at least I now think about ‘when I am better’ and am looking forward to returning to work in the spring.”

The Isles of Scilly are certainly beautiful but they are also rather remote and in times of need the community can feel isolated. That’s why we funded a visit by Claire to treat local seafarers who might otherwise have suffered in silence.

Julie added: “I’m so grateful to the Society for funding my treatment. The set up at Newlyn is incredible and Claire has been amazing. I want everyone to know about it.”

Click on the videos to see Julie practising climbing over a 60cm bar/edge of vessel and picking up ropes from the floor.

Paul Hagan of Leicester served for 10 years with the merchant navy. After leaving, he lost his leg in an accident. A fitness fan, he became a wheelchair athlete but had to give this up too because of nerve damage.

His service at sea meant that he was able to get a £400 grant from the Seafarers Hospital Society, which he put with grants from other sources to buy a hand cycle.

Paul Hagan says “I’ve fitted my cycle with a red ensign, partly because I’m proud to have been a merchant seaman, partly because of all the help seafaring charities have given me. It’s fantastic to be active again.”

Bob Mackie of Grimsby worked for 45 years a fisherman in spite of a number of accidents and the early loss of one leg. When he retired the Society gave him a grant of £1,500 towards the cost of a scooter.

Bob Mackie says “My new scooter is fantastic. I couldn’t have afforded it without the grant. Thanks to the Society I now have my independence back.”

Frances Puddifer of Liverpool was a stewardess on Irish Car Ferries. Now retired, Frances was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the stairs in her home. With a grant from three maritime charities, including one of £425 from the Society, she’s been able to install a stairlift.

Frances Puddifer says “It was the best Christmas present ever!”