Page last updated at 06:36 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Call for head injury unit for teenagers in Wales

Alex Hughes
Alex Hughes is facing months of treatment in Rookwood Hospital

The mother of a 17-year-old boy who was injured in an attack on Majorca is calling for a dedicated unit to treat teenagers with brain injuries in Wales.

Alex Hughes from Radyr, Cardiff, was left with severe injuries after being hit over the head with a bottle outside a nightclub on holiday last August.

He is being treated in Rookwood Hospital, Cardiff, with elderly people.

The assembly government said a neuro-rehabilitation unit would not be "sustainable" in Wales.

Alex regained consciousness in September while being treated at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

He was transferred to Rookwood Hospital for rehabilitation and has slowly regained much of his speech, although he is still unable to walk. It is hoped an operation on his foot will help him regain some movement.

He undergoes physiotherapy, speech and language therapy each day - although his mother Helen said it was sometimes just 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon if there were staff shortages.

For the remainder of his time, he is left to his own devices, which Ms Hughes says can often mean him lying on his bed bored.

"There's an old TV which is available for all patients to use but it only has about three channels and a video recorder, not a DVD player. So it's hard for Alex to amuse himself," she said.

"I go in as often as I can to play games with him or take him out for a drive. I fear that the lack of stimulation will hamper his progress."

She said she believed a dedicated rehabilitation unit for teenagers and young people with neuro and spinal injuries was urgently needed in Wales.

"Alex is surrounded by people who are mostly in their 70s and 80s. They can often be crying, screaming or swearing loudly which is quite intimidating for someone his age," said Ms Hughes, herself a nurse, who has been told her son will be in hospital for many months to come.

Alex is surrounded by people who are mostly in their 70s and 80s
Helen Hughes, mother

"There's nothing in Wales for someone his age. I'd love to see a unit - even if it was a small one - where teenagers could be together and feel comfortable. Where they could be with people of a similar age and play cards together, watch TV or use a Wii Fit.

"There are a few other teenagers in Rookwood and I really think it would help them.

"I've spoken to the nurses and they say it's an ongoing problem and it would be a dream to do something about it."

Last month the family of 13-year-old Kyle Beere, 13, of St Fagans, Cardiff, launched an appeal to raise £250,000 for him to receive treatment in Surrey after he suffered a brain haemorrhage.

His family said they were having to take him to England because of a lack of rehabilitation services for children with brain injuries in Wales.

'Highly specialised services'

Three teenagers appeared in a Spanish court last August over the attack on Alex, which happened on 2 August while the Radyr Comprehensive schoolboy was on a holiday with friends and their parents in Port d'Antratx.

An assembly government spokesperson said spinal injury and neuro-rehabilitation units are "highly specialised services".

"Due to the relatively small number of patients with these injuries, they require a large population base in order to ensure safe, high quality and sustainable treatment."

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