Better Care

How nursing team are helping Steve stay independent

Steve Tozer

Steve Tozer has been paralysed from above the waist down since suffering spinal injury at work eight years ago.

Fiercely independent, he is determined to live life to the full and manages his health and wellbeing and daily routine with minimal assistance – exactly as he likes it.

It was that ‘can-do’ spirit that spurred him into taking the holiday of a lifetime in the Philippines last summer. Steve spent three weeks in the Philippine capital Manila where he forged a relationship with a local girl strong enough to prompt his swift return to the western Pacific resort.

But two 13,000-mile round trips took their toll because a total of 29 hours in an aircraft cabin led to Steve developing five severe pressure sores within days of returning from his second trip.

“I’ve always been very independent,” says the 51-year-old father-of-two. “After I was first injured, I spent six months in the spinal injuries centre in Oswestry and, as well as specialist treatment, they gave me a lot of excellent advice about how to adapt and manage my disability, including pressure sore prevention.

“One of the consequences of losing your mobility is that you can very quickly develop pressure sores on your hips and your bottom if you spend all day in a chair. And it’s very surprising how quickly these can develop into quite serious wounds.

“I had to have two skin grafts on a pressure sore on my hip quite early on and since then, I’ve been very careful. I set my alarm to go off every four hours during the night so I can change position – I’m so used to it now that my body alarm goes off first!

 “I don’t know whether I was dozing a bit too long between meals on the plane, the change of environment or just overdoing it. But about a week after getting back from my second trip, I started noticing bruises on my backside, and that developed into five pressure sores.

 “I was so disappointed because the main thing I want to do with my life is travel. I’ve been very careful to prevent pressure sores and I don’t want that worry to stop me going on trips in the future.”

Steve Tozer in Manila
Steve gets set to go jet-skiing in Manila Bay with friend Mika

Steve, formerly an oil tanker fitter and later a refuse collector, was referred by his GP to Birmingham Community Healthcare’s district nursing team, who sought the clinical expertise of colleagues in the tissue viability team, which specialises in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment.

He added: "the NHS gets a lot of criticism these days but everyone who's helped me, from Birmingham Wheelchair Services to the district nurses and the tissue viability team have been excellent."

Tissue viability team leader Rebecca Martin said: “Steve was very well educated on pressure sore prevention, using a mirror to inspect his skin and move on a regular basis, but the cumulative effect of two flights in a short space of time, lack of movement and no opportunity to check skin, resulted in him developing severe and deep pressure sores to his buttocks and hips.”

Rebecca explained that the speed with which pressure ulcers can deteriorate makes it essential to raise awareness of the simple checks and techniques that can aid early detection and prevention.

“Pressure sores can develop over any bony prominence and deteriorate a lot more quickly than people imagine,” she said.

"That is why regular movement and checking skin for redness or discoloration are vital elements of pressure sore prevention. Everyone will know someone who is at risk of developing a pressure sore and that is why raising public awareness can make such a huge difference.”

  • Birmingham Community Healthcare is holding two events to promote public awareness of pressure sore prevention and management  - in the main foyer area at West Heath Hospital on Thursday, 4 July and outside the chapel at Moseley Hall Hospital on Friday, 5 July.  Both events are due to run from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
click the image to access simple advice about pressure ulcer prevention.