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Hayley’s journey

Hayley was referred to The Passage over 3 years ago. She had previously been living in a semi-independent project run by another charity in the borough but had to leave for her safety due to a number of violent incidents where her abusive ex-partner would break in to her flat, destroy her property and attack her.

Hayley was moved about a lot in her teenage years and began to live on the streets with her Mum and dog Jada, at the age of 18. This is about the same time where she entered into the hostel system within the borough. She lived in various hostels and also on the streets throughout the years, having to leave a number of hostels due to being assaulted. She met her abusive and alcoholic ex-partner at one of these hostels. The relationship had started off well, however it soon became increasingly controlling and toxic, and to cope with this, she began to drink. 

When Hayley first arrived at The Passage, we wanted to help her to address her alcohol addiction, so she was offered accommodation in our Montfort House residential project, our service for clients with complex mental health, addiction and specialist support needs. What stood out about Hayley very early on, was her aspiration to come through it all, live her life independently in her own home and return to work.

Working with Hayley, the team at Montfort House did all that they could to ensure that Hayley’s hopes could one day become a reality, however the journey was far from easy and it was a very slow process. When she moved in, she found it very hard to trust people and was wary of the support that was being offered to her as a result. Staff put a lot of effort into building this level of trust back by getting to know her and focusing on her strengths and the things that she liked to do, this usually revolved around her pet dog from her time on the streets, Jada.

Hayley in 2019

The team at Montfort House set Hayley a series of goals to help her work towards living independently but her mental health was in a very bad way, and drink continued to be a big problem that she battled with. She was dependent on alcohol throughout her stay and could drink two bottles of vodka a day easily, and she would frequently blackout from drinking. She used alcohol mainly to block out her past traumas and just get through the day. Hayley also suffered from suicidal ideation; there were days where she struggled to even get out of bed due to the darkness she felt. In an attempt to tackle this, she began to work with psychologists at Montfort House (provided by SLaM as part of the Psychology In Hostels project) on trauma stabilisation; it was deemed too much for her to be able to cope with fully exploring everything that had happened to her, so instead she was supported with finding ways to cope with day to day life. A number of attempts were made to get Hayley linked in with the local alcohol agency, however she found this very difficult to maintain. She had to be relinked with them around 6 times throughout her stay at Montfort House but each time getting one step further with the programme.

Despite the team’s best efforts and these combined interventions, Hayley’s physical health continued to deteriorate due to her drinking and she began suffering from severe seizures that required hospital stays. The seizures became increasingly frequent and she would simply self-discharge each time, rather than follow through with any of the treatment that the hospital staff strongly advised her to have.

The Montfort House team tried to get to the bottom of why Hayley’s drinking issues had started to worsen and learnt that despite progressing on her journey to leading a more ‘normal life’ Hayley felt that she was not worthy of living like other people, and that if she did – she would mess it up and disappoint everyone around her.

A lot of work went into convincing Hayley to attend her medical appointments. Her GP and hospital consultants played a pivotal role in this, often rearranging appointments for when it was easier for Hayley to cope with. Following some particularly serious side effects from her drinking, the GP referred Hayley to a liver specialist. Hayley refused to attend the first two appointments because she was so terrified of what she might find out. It was only after a lot of encouragement and persuasion form her Project Worker, Elizabeth, and former residents at Montfort House that she agreed to attend. The consultant took one look at her and told her she needed to be an inpatient as her liver was failing – he could tell immediately from her skin colouring, eyeballs and other vital signs. Again, Hayley was very fearful and resistant to this and it took two GPs, the consultant, her Project Worker, and Sister Bernie’s influence at The Passage to get her to agree to go into hospital; and even then she refused to go in an ambulance and would only go the following morning rather than that evening. Her Project Worker was not willing to take the risk of waiting another night, so she arranged with the liver consultant for Hayley to be admitted straight onto a ward that night, so she did not have to attend A&E first.

Upon admission to the hospital, Hayley was told that she would die very soon if she continued to drink and that there clear signs that her liver was failing. They predicted that she only had a couple of months left if she continued as she was. It was clear that the discussion had a big impact, there was a look of fear in her eyes and then all of a sudden everything fell into place. She spoke with the doctors about wanting to live and gave her word that she would give this chance at recovery her all, even if it meant being in hospital for a long time. Initially it was predicted that she would need to be there for around 4-6 months for her liver to repair itself. In the first week Hayley’s health was up and down but she did very well and kept her word by staying in hospital. Her family also began to visit her and her Dad saw her everyday whilst she was in hospital.

However in a worrying turn of events, Hayley developed pneumonia, causing difficulties with her breathing. Initially it did not seem too bad, however she deteriorated rapidly in the middle of the night on 11 July 2019, when she suffered a cardiac arrest. Her heart stopped beating for 18 minutes – they gave her resuscitation for this length of time, longer than what is usual. Four of her organs went into failure and it did not look likely that she would last the day. Medical staff were not even sure, if she did wake up from her coma, whether she would have any brain function or if her organs would recover.

Hayley was in intensive care for two months. To begin with she was linked up to every machine possible and was on dialysis. It was touch and go for the first month but she slowly started to make improvements and was able to come off machines one by one as different organs began repairing themselves. During this time, Hayley had not been able to speak as her vocal cords had been so severely damaged, but after a lot of work she was able to quietly whisper and also write things down to communicate as she started to regain the strength in her hands. The improvements kept coming and thankfully she did not have any brain damage. All of her organs except her kidneys massively improved. After just over two months in intensive care she was moved to a kidney specialist unit as they believed that she had long lasting function issues where she would need to be on dialysis for the rest of her life. Luckily a few weeks down the line the situation changed and her kidneys healed to the point where she no longer required dialysis. Whilst in hospital her family would visit alongside her Support Worker Elizabeth and Sister Bernie from The Passage, her psychologist, Geoff and Cherry, her Alcohol worker from CGL. She loved visits from people she recognised and even went to the in house cinema with Bernie one evening whilst she was still in her intensive care unit bed!

As well as having a fully committed team behind her to advocate on her behalf who were all personally invested in her recovery; the key factor in Hayley turning her life around was her sustained motivation and drive. She was determined to live and achieve a better life. She truly gave it her all. She attended group sessions with her alcohol worker as well as one to one sessions. She attended all of her appointments and key work sessions whilst trying to build a new routine. It was very tough for her as she felt a lot of pressure to seem ‘perfect’ and was worried about letting people down, but she worked hard. She began to re-engage with The Passage psychologist for support as it is common for people to suffer from PTSD following a long intensive care stay. She filled her time as much as she could so she felt busy but at the same time not overwhelmed, attending one day courses such as a two day construction course, where she was the only female who attended! She became more aware of how she spent her time and who she spent her time with to keep herself on the right track.

Due to how well she had done since her hospital discharge, the continuing improvement in her health and wanting to continue her sobriety, she was successfully referred to Solace’s Housing First Scheme. She received a flat through this scheme which could lead to a lifelong tenancy after the first year if everything continues to go positively. She has been allocated a specialist worker with experience of working with females from a domestic violence background and receives regular check ins as well as daily phonecalls from her Passage Support Worker, Elizabeth. Hayley is very happy in her flat and says that it ‘feels like home.’ She has organised all the rooms perfectly and loves having visitors, especially to show off her new sofa! She feels much more settled now that she has her own place and is able to focus on pursuing her studies. Elizabeth is currently supporting her to enrol at a college to study GCSE Maths and English so she can gain some qualifications before looking at further education or returning back to work. She is also still in regular contact with Sister Bernie who she loves dearly and from whom she receives a great deal of emotional support. She is very happy and healthy!

Hayley in her flat, ‘showing off her new sofa,’ June 2020