Choir hits right note for man recovering from serious illness

“The club has changed my life for the better – I feel like I’ve got things to look forward to again.”

Colin is a new member of Caldicot’s thriving male voice choir. After a serious illness forced him to retire from work at the age of just 52, Colin found himself without the work related social networks that many of us take for granted.

Five years ago, Colin was living a normal life working as a weigh bridge operator in Bristol. A series of sudden and severe stomach pains led to Colin being put into a medical coma and battling kidney and liver failure, septicaemia and six cardiac arrests.

A long recovery process followed as Colin battled a condition known as critical care neuropathy – a disease of the peripheral nerves that occurs as a complication of severe trauma or infection. This has left Colin with mobility issues and restricted use of his arms and hands.

Colin was referred into Monmouthshire Housing Association’s (MHA) Social Inclusion service via Dean Lannen, a Housing and Wellbeing Officer with MHA who’d been working with Colin.

The Social Inclusion service works with socially isolated and vulnerable people living in Monmouthshire, and not just MHA tenants. Staff help people in a range of ways – from assisting people in their own homes with day-to-day tasks they find tricky, to helping people get out and about and engaged with their local communities.

Social Inclusion Support officer, Teri Power, first met Colin in late 2016. After spending time talking to Colin, finding out about his hobbies, interests and researching local groups and activities that may be suitable for him to get involved with, Teri suggested he join Caldicot male voice choir as he’d always had an interest in singing.

As Colin is no longer able to drive, Teri had to research transport options and the logistics of getting Colin from his home to choir practice each week. After talking with a local support worker, Sue, Terri and Sue agreed to work together to help Colin get to and from the choir group meetings each week using a specialist bus service that helps people with mobility issues to travel safely across the local area.

Colin quickly settled into the group and says the meetings have become a real highlight of his week. He explains: “My Dad used to play in a miners band and I remember the music he used to play from when I was young. Teri encouraged me to join the club, and I was delighted to find such a welcoming, friendly group of people.

“It’s great getting out and about across the county with the group and I love singing! I have a vocal baritone test coming up and hopefully I’ll pass that and then be officially inducted.

“Teri has helped me so much. She’s friendly and stays in touch regularly. I’m joining a local art group too and it’s great to have things to look forward to again.”

Teri said: “Colin’s a joy to work with. I’m glad I’ve been able to help him join the choir, as he enjoys it so much. Everyone in the choir loves having Colin there and he’s become a vital member of the group. For me, it’s been brilliant seeing the change in Colin from the first time I met him, through to now – seeing him laughing, interacting and singing along every week.”