Gemma’s long road to recovery

Gemma Newman's story - Yorkshire Has Talent
Gemma Newman's story - Yorkshire Has Talent
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Gemma Newman has spent the last seven months in hospital after a devastating brain bleed. Now a fundraising event with a difference is being held to help her. Catherine Scott reports.

May 9 was like any other day for Gemma Newman and her family. Little did any one know it would change their lives forever.

The 40-year-old mum of one had gone to work as a senior advisor for DePuy as normal.

But then her husband, Dominic received a phone call.

“I was told that my wife, Gemma, the mother to our young son had collapsed at work due to a bleed on her brain. She was in surgery that was to determine the fate of our family,” recalls Dominic, of Chapel Allerton.

Fortunately the surgery was successful and Gemma’s life was saved, but when she came round from the operation she was no longer the same person.

“All of her basic skills were lost, her memory of our life together erased, and, the things we all so easily take for granted, she could no longer undertake,” says Dominic. “The home that we shared together is now the place that I care for our son alone. The place where she is battling, on a daily basis, to get back to, does not feel the same without her.” The couple have a seven-year-old son, Luke. Against all odds Gemma survived two emergency operations, but it was some time before the extent of her disabilities were revealed. As a result of the bleed and the resulting surgery she was left with severe right-sided weakness of both her upper and lower limbs.

With a combination of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy Gemma is now able to move her right arm and right leg. After very slow and painstaking improvements, she has been moved from critical care to neuro rehabilitation at Chapel Allerton Hospital.

“Her communication skills continue to improve and she is slowly, but surely,coming back to us,” says father-of-four Dominic.

“That being said, she is still a long way from independence and is likely to need this level of rehabilitation for the foreseeable future. At present her body will not respond as she wants it to, she knows what she wants to say but can’t always say it.

“She cannot walk unaided and her frustration at these simple functions that we all take for granted is immeasurable. She remains trapped within the confines of her own body.”

At the moment Gemma, who had her 40th birthday in hospital, is getting first class treatment, but her family and friends are concerned that this level of support is maintained when she returns home.

“Unfortunately, when she finally does leave the rehabilitation centre there will inevitably be a dramatic reduction in the amount of care that she receives; care that she so will so desperately needs to get her back to the person that she was before that fateful day,” says Dominic. “ I am self-employed, and my time is spent in the hospital looking after her, running a home for our son, and working in the little time that there is left. This is an impossible situation for our family, but there is no other option.”

In a bid to ensure that Gemma continues to receive the support she needs her friends and family have launched a fund-raising drive with a difference.

This weekend sees the first of two audition rounds for “Yorkshire Has Talent”. Along with the support and donations of time and skills from Gemma’s friends and family, close friends Kendra Verity and Sarah Booth have taken on the challenge of organising the event.

Yorkshire Has Talent, which is taking place on January 10 at the Engine Shed in Wetherby, will see a panel of Yorkshire’s favourite soap stars judging at the event and the two-stage auditions which are taking place also at the Engine Shed this Sunday and then on the Sunday December 14. This weekend’s auditions are already full and a few spaces remain for the December 14. Around 40 acts are expected to audition, with a final selection of 10 variety acts chosen for the main event.

“We have been overwhelmed by the level of support for Yorkshire Has Talent,” says friend Kendra. “What started as a bold idea to help to raise much-needed funds for Gemma’s long-term rehabilitation has become a fantastic event with celebrity involvement. We couldn’t have done this without the support of a close team of friends and family. We are incredibly grateful to everyone for their help in bringing this important event to life and we have been inundated with extremely talented acts wanting to audition.”

Dominic has been touched by the support from friends.

“My wife is fighting hard every day to be able to come home and I desperately want to help her find a way back into a life that she knew and loved,” he says. “This event has given us all hope that our struggle may be aided and we are indebted to each and every person who has worked so hard to make this happen.”

Dominic’s daughter, Emma, is also involved in the event. “It is so wonderful to be a part of such a great event, not only to be able to raise the much needed funding for my beautiful step-mum’s rehabilitation, but to also raise awareness of the unfortunate situations many families’ are struck with,” says Emma. “ I have been blown away with the help of others at such a difficult time, my family are extremely grateful and would not be the same without those close friends and family, namely Kendra Verity, Sarah Booth and Mahan Tak who have put an extreme amount of effort into the set up and organisation of Yorkshire Has Talent. A big thank you to all, long may the support continue.”