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Community and mental health services for Southampton, Portsmouth and parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


Mark comes full circle in rehabilitation journey

Debbie Cox, Suzi Hobbs, Tanja Roberts, Mark Hobbs, Laura Papineau and Claire Jeffries
Debbie Cox, Suzi Hobbs, Tanja Roberts, Mark Hobbs, Laura Papineau and Claire Jeffries (left to right)

In February 2022, Mark Hobbs and his family’s life changed in an instant.

After losing balance in his legs, Mark was admitted into Queen Alexandra Hospital (QAH) in Portsmouth, where he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Mark spent the next 300 days there, seven months of which were in ICU. This syndrome is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves resulting in loss of mobility throughout the body, eventually paralysing your whole body.

When we first visited Mark in August last year, he was still in ICU and had started his hydrotherapy treatment in July. Read more here on Mark’s diagnosis and the beginning of his hydrotherapy journey.

Today, he is back home and walking. And getting stronger every day.

Mark Hobbs says: “All the people in hydrotherapy were like another family. When I was moved and sent for further rehabilitation on land, they were so supportive, and we always felt like they were with us every step of the way during my recovery. I would not be here and come so far without all of them.

“I am now able to walk around the house without support, I can walk up the stairs, I can wash myself and feed myself and make a cup of tea.”

Long road to recovery

Mark went home in December 2022, just in time for Christmas and his daughter’s birthday. He continued to come in for his weekly hydrotherapy sessions until 31 March this year. From not being able to move his limbs at all, after 9 months of hydrotherapy, Mark ended his hydro journey by walking out of the pool by the steps aided by staff. From that milestone and regaining a lot of strength and mobility, Mark was referred to our neurological physiotherapy team, also based at QAH, to continue his rehabilitation at their gym, where he continues to work on his strength, balance and stamina.

On 14 May, Mark walked for the first time. Mark says the neuro gym team has helped him get stronger and showed him so many exercises and things he can do at home that are all helping. 

Mark currently attends these physiotherapy sessions once a week where he uses all the different equipment, including the rowing machine, ski pull, parallel bars step box, balance board and leg press.

Pamela Bailey, Physiotherapy Clinical Lead at our Neuro Gym Physiotherapy Outpatients department, says they so happy with Mark's amazing progress. Pamela says: "Mark was initially using the wheelchair for all his mobility. He is now walking into the neuro gym department with his walking stick. Every week Mark always has a list of things he has achieved since the last physiotherapy session. Mark is very motivated and continues his exercises at home in-between physiotherapy sessions which has been key to the progress he has made."

Upon reflection on far they have come with the support of all the staff at Solent, Suzi Hobbs, Mark’s wife, says it would have been so much more difficult to manage without the staff from the critical care unit at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) and Solent’s physiotherapy team. Suzi says: “The care we have both received has been amazing, everybody from ICU to the physiotherapists, they all have been so kind. When we went to hydrotherapy, they supported me. Everyone who was part of this is part of our life story and they made this journey for us manageable and gave us hope. They are just all so kind and thoughtful.”

Everyone excited at Mark’s progress

When Laura Papineau, a physiotherapy team leader for hydrotherapy at Solent at QAH, first met Mark he could barely shrug his shoulders and blink his eyes. He was fully ventilated and could not speak. Laura says it’s amazing to see how Mark has progressed. “Every day with Mark, we could see him getting more range in movement and being able to do more for himself. Progressing from having full support from us to being able to stand in the water. Makes it all worthwhile to see him doing so well.”

Claire Jeffries, Physiotherapy Manager and Clinical Specialist at Solent with the hydrotherapy team, says to see him now being able to walk is the best feeling in the world. Claire says: “It reminds you why we do what we do. Sometimes it can be hard to make patients stay motivated initially because change and progression takes time, and they get such a boost from the first few sessions. It’s hard to keep them motivated when progression is slow but to keep them motivated that they would see change is a key point in the role we have with this patient group. But to watch that progression, is amazing and to see Mark walking just blew my mind.

“Besides Laura and myself at hydro, it’s a real team effort. From the tech staff who support with risk assessments, our rotational physiotherapists, our partnership with the critical care team from PHU, and our neurological gym colleagues. When patients come toward the end of their care, it doesn’t stop in hydro, we do a weening process and transition to our neuro gym colleagues and final discharge to them. Patients like Mark will continue his care there on land.”

Debbie Cox, a physiotherapist at PHU, says: “It’s amazing to see how much he has progressed. It makes you realise why you do the job. There is nothing better than seeing a patient who couldn’t move any of limbs to see him walking again.”

Mark remembers his time at hydro with a twinkle in his eye and smiles, saying: “I was always excited to go, it was a confidence booster and gave me the mental strength that I would get better. All the time they motivated me and kept me positive.”


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