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OT: The veteran who showed me how I could make a difference

Craig Burley, a Rehabilitation Technician in the Occupational Therapy (OT) Department, explains how an inspirational veteran changed his career path forever.

Craig was a Healthcare Assistant on Norfolk Wing when he started working with Steve, an ex-paratrooper who had reached the rank of Colour Sergeant. 

Steve had completed over 300 jumps when, during a jump, the parachute opened too quickly, severing his vertebrae and leaving him with quadriplegia. He was still a young man, and Care for Veterans became his home for 25 years. Craig explains how this friendship would shape the rest of his career: 

“The Occupational Therapist at the time had got Steve a specialist wheelchair controlled with a soft button that he pushed with his chin so that he would go everywhere.

He had environmental controls operated by blowing into a mouthpiece to control his bed, TV, and lights. He was amazing.

He’d get me to set it up and help him troubleshoot any issues. When a position came up in the Occupational Therapy Department, Steve told me to go for it and said he thought I’d be really good. I got the job as Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2018. 

Occupational Therapy is about making a person’s life as independent as possible by helping with functional tasks such as how you brush your teeth, how you roll in bed and how you get around; all the stuff that we take for granted. 

When we work with people with acquired brain injury or mobility limiting impairments, it’s about utilising the movements they can control to help someone live more independently. 

You are constantly asking questions about how best to help someone and researching what technology and equipment are available. We often discuss ideas with other occupational therapists and healthcare professionals. 

When people are here for rehabilitation, it’s how we can adapt what we’ve done here to their home environment, so they can live as independently as possible.

It’s about helping someone access a drawer or turn on the light. It’s often about those little things, and our job is to make their life easier and better.”

Craig has just started an Occupational Therapy degree at Brighton University.

If it wasn’t for residents like Steve and also a WWII veteran, Dixie, who pushed me to take this role, then I wouldn’t be going to university and wouldn’t have found a career that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in.

It’s funny the people you meet; at the time, you don’t think about the impact they can have on your future. The sad thing is that they have both passed away now, but I still think about them a lot.

Craig Burley, Rehabilitation Technician

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Craig, Rehabilitation Technician at Care for Veterans

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