How Ongo saved my life – by Jo Russell

How Ongo saved my life – by Jo Russell Image

After fleeing domestic violence and leaving her old life behind ten years ago, Jo Russell (46), found herself in desperate need of a safe and stable place to call home.

Jo then moved into one of our three-bedroom homes, which she had happily lived in with her two children.

In 2019 her and her family’s lives were changed forever when she was given the devastating news that she had to have her leg amputated.

Jo said: “I was coming down my stairs and I fell. I only had four steps to go, but I knew straight after I’d hurt my toe, but I didn’t think it was anything serious.

“After just getting on with it for a while, I couldn’t ignore the inflammation and took a trip to A&E. I thought I’d be sent home to rest it, but after tests and countless doctors giving their opinion, I was told my toe must be amputated.

“This was shocking and deeply upsetting, but we went ahead with the operation. Unfortunately, not long after I got an infection, and all my toes had to be amputated because it just kept spreading.

“Even after this the infection was going further and further up my leg, so we had to get ahead of it as quick as we could. I had to make sure I was here for my children. That’s why in December 2019, my left leg was amputated and life would never be the same again for me.”

Once home Jo was unable to get upstairs, so had to wash using the kitchen sink, and with no adaptations, it just wasn’t suitable for her to recover or live there anymore. Suddenly Jo’s safe haven was no longer the home she needed and she knew she couldn’t stay.

In March 2020 Jo contracted Sepsis and COVID-19. Her family were told to prepare for the worst, but amazingly a few weeks later she pulled through and was able to go home.

However, just a month later Jo was at her lowest and had to seek medical help again, “I had another infection and my mental health really struggled during this time.  What more could be thrown at me? How much more could I take?”

July came round, and finally Jo received some good news.

She said: “After months of desperately looking for a new home, Grace from the Lettings Team called to say that I was successful for a specially adapted, new build bungalow in Westcliff.

“I can’t express how much this meant to me, apart from to say this truly was the light at the end of the tunnel I needed.

“When I viewed the bungalow I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was everything I needed and more. Every room I looked in, I knew it was going to change my life. I can finally live my life and be independent.”

Jo and her family moved into their new home on 30 September and are loving every moment.

“It sounds cliché but this house has truly changed my life, and not only that, it’s saved it. I’ve put plans in place to get back driving next year, and once I’ve done that I’ll be back to where I was before losing my leg. Then I want to go back to work and am determined to make it happen.

“Because it’s fully adapted for my wheelchair there’s more space, so I can move around freely. All door handles are adapted, plug sockets are higher, light switches are lower and I can adjust the height of my kitchen workshop so I can cook too. Even my windows are lower so I can see out, which has been great throughout lockdown so I can see some daylight.

“My favourite part is definitely my bathroom. It’s given me my pride back and I can spend so long sat in my shower chair now. After washing in a kitchen sink for nine months, it’s just the best feeling.”

The way our teams have changed the lives of Jo and her family doesn’t stop there however. The family are settling into their community. Jo said: “I didn’t know much about Westcliff, apart from that it had a bad reputation, but I can honestly say it’s false and it’s the best community I’ve ever been a part of.

“I have some friends nearby and I’ve made great links with people at The Arc. I go in regularly to chat to Ongo staff. My daughter is in touch with Jemma, her Youth Mentor to talk about jobs and training.

“I’m also in touch with Sunita from the Support Team who has helped me to claim the support and benefits I’m entitled to, and I’ve recently signed up to Ongo Talk.”

“None of these plans would be possible without the help of Ongo, I can’t thank them enough for all of the help they have and are continuing to give me. My life is really looking up and for the first time in a while I am excited for mine and my family’s future.”

This is an inspirational story and one we are all very proud of at Ongo. It truly represents what we are about and aim to achieve. We are committed to providing options for all within our developments, so that families can live independently for as long as possible, with the care and support they need. We can’t wait to introduce more in the coming years.