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.
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!”