“I was left ‘locked in’ after a skiing accident, but it doesn’t stop me organising events at my care home”

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Dave can communicate the majority of the time through an eye tracking computer screen.

A man who was left unable to communicate after a skiing accident has taken on an ambassador role at his care home in Sheffield.

Dave Hollinger suffered a brain stem stroke after the accident six years ago, and was left with severe physical impairments and locked-in syndrome.

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The condition means most of his body is paralysed but he is still fully conscious, and able to perform certain eye movements. His right hand functions just enough to operate a powered wheelchair, and he can communicate the majority of the time through an eye tracking computer screen. 

Dave Hollinger, who resides at Willowbeck Care Home in Sheffield.Dave Hollinger, who resides at Willowbeck Care Home in Sheffield.
Dave Hollinger, who resides at Willowbeck Care Home in Sheffield. | Willowbeck

Dave said: "I find the ambassador role incredibly stimulating and it really helps with my own wellbeing and mental health. Throughout my journey, I've been grateful for my undiminished capacity to make decisions about my life.

“My lived experience is invaluable to providing this insight and I think it will enhance the quality of care for everyone.”

Originally from Northern Ireland, Dave, who is in his forties, moved to Sheffield's Willowbeck care facility in 2020.

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In his role as an ambassador, he collects and shares feedback on behalf of other residents and their families to support the smooth running of the home.

Dave is currently sourcing new photographs of Ladybower Reservoir, one of the most picturesque and recognisable places in the Peak District, to help redecorate the home.Dave is currently sourcing new photographs of Ladybower Reservoir, one of the most picturesque and recognisable places in the Peak District, to help redecorate the home.
Dave is currently sourcing new photographs of Ladybower Reservoir, one of the most picturesque and recognisable places in the Peak District, to help redecorate the home. | Willowbeck

He has also planned the walking stage of a triathlon event, organised a popular casino event, and worked with Sheffield Hallam University to develop the curriculum for their social work and nursing courses.

Dave added: "I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to shape the education of future Nurses and Social Workers so they can be better prepared to support people living with complex care needs.

"Looking forward, I'd like to support care colleagues in continually developing their skills and having a better understanding of 'why' they're doing something, alongside the 'what' and the 'how'.”

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