Stephen Tauwhare

Supported Patients Recover Better
Stephen Tauwhare

Stephen Tauwhare had recently finished his master’s degree and had been married just 15 months when, at the age of 33, he suffered a brain aneurism that almost claimed his life.
His wife Elaine was by his side and told to prepare herself that he may not survive the weekend. The hospital removed all medication, other than for pain.

“I was sitting with him and he started twitching his hands and feet and his eyes blinked open,” she says. “I think the doctors thought I was imagining things when I told them that he was blinking once for yes and twice for no, but he was, and that was that.”

So began a “year of hell” for both of them. Elaine faced numerous bureaucratic and personnel hurdles and felt that Stephen wasn’t getting anywhere near enough help and support to rehabilitate. “There was one nurse who was great and really supportive, but ultimately nothing really happened for that first year, other than I knew he was ‘in there’.

“It was so frustrating, because I spoke to another independent doctor, who said the patients who recover better than expected are the ones who are well supported.”

After several moves, Stephen was relocated to Laura Fergusson House, where he now lives and gets, in Elaine’s words, “heaps of rehabilitation and opportunities – they even went out sailing recently – I was quite jealous!”

Elaine read about ableX in the Hutt News, and as fate would have it, company co-founder Sunil Vather used to work with Stephen. His former employer Industrial Research Limited funded a unit and the Tauwhares were delighted that after two or three years with very little, Stephen was finally able to do something with his brain, and help himself rehabilitate.

“At first, he struggled to do anything, but he absolutely loved it,” says Elaine. “It was such a comfort and relief to see that brain of his stimulated – he started out with the wand (ableX handlebar controller), then a mouse and progressed well to the harder games.”

Elaine has taken out a mortgage to buy a van with a hoist, and her ‘local’, the Belleview Garden Hotel, pitched in to improve access at home for Stephen’s wheelchair, which means he’s able to get home every so often.

Obviously, Stephen’s brain injury has turned many lives upside down, least of all his and Elaine’s. Their bond and commitment to continued improvement is inspirational and comforting, given the first year they endured. The enduring message for families and patients from their story is to never give up, never stop seeking a solution that will assist the individuals concerned. Without it, Stephen’s quality of life and Elaine’s peace of mind would have been even more compromised.