Patient’s determination to be home with his newborn son helps him to make an incredible recovery

Friday, 22 December 2017

A patient at Southmead Hospital has made remarkable progress in his recovery through his determination to be home with his newborn son.

Baby Carter was able to visit James in ICU

James Spence, from Southmead, was involved in a life-threatening road accident on July 29 this year. He sustained a serious brain injury, and was taken to Southmead Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit where he was placed in an induced coma.

His partner Charlene Pope was 38-weeks pregnant at the time of the accident.

Charlene said: “I was worried our baby wouldn’t meet his Dad. The staff were so comforting and I was always reassured that he was in good hands. They helped me to keep calm in a critical situation.”

James remained in intensive care for two weeks, during which Charlene had their baby at Southmead Hospital’s Maternity unit. Staff on the unit made sure Charlene was supported, providing her with her own room so that she could have some privacy during this difficult time.

When Charlene gave birth to baby Carter, a midwife accompanied them to the Intensive Care Unit so that Carter could meet his father for the first time.

Charlene said: “James was still in a coma when we first visited, but he woke up two days later. I think that taking the baby over helped him come around.

“I’m grateful to the staff in Maternity. The midwives watched over Carter while I made phone calls to family members. I also had support from people at Headway Bristol.”

Regular visits from Charlene and baby Carter aid James' recovery

After two weeks in intensive care, James was transferred to a ward to recover. As part of his condition, James would walk up and down the ward constantly.

Charlene explained: “The staff on the ward were very helpful with my partner’s brain condition. It made him act in compulsive ways and he would walk for hours on end. Staff were more than happy to walk with him.”

James made remarkable progress, and after one appointment with an Occupational Therapist, was fit to be discharged. James was able to go home with his family on the first day of September. By November, he started working again.

Charlene Pope, James Spence and baby Carter are home in time for ChristmasCharlene said: “He’s a walking miracle! It's a happy ending as he is now at home and we are enjoying our little family together. We have booked our wedding and will be getting married in November 2018, as it’s made us realise how life could be cut short in a blink of an eye.

“I am so grateful to the staff who worked so hard to make sure he was in a stable condition. Because of them, I have a brilliant future to look forward to.”

Ben Walton, adult clinical lead for major trauma at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “Rehabilitation for major trauma patients starts the moment a patient enters our hospital. We work with a range of teams during the patient’s care and recovery phase to help them get better and home as soon as they are able.

“But an important part of rehabilitation is regular communication and contact with loved ones. James’ remarkable recovery was not only down to the fantastic care he received here at Southmead Hospital, but also regular visits and encouragement from his partner Charlene and their son.

“We were more than happy to arrange for newborn baby Carter to visit his father, and we wish the family all the very best for the future.”



Southmead Hospital is the adult major trauma centre for the Severn area, covering Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and parts of Wiltshire.

A trauma system is a model of care designed to care for patients with multiple serious injuries that could result in death or serious disability, including head injuries, life-threatening wounds and multiple fractures.

Major trauma centres are set up to provide this specialised care; they are hubs that work closely with a series of local trauma units.

Since the introduction of these networks in England, critically injured patients now have a 30% better chance of survival. The major trauma centre at Southmead Hospital has some of the best survival rates in England.