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TRH officially open Northern Ireland's first Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit

TRH open Northern Ireland's first Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit

14th May 2006

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall met patients and staff at a new brain injury treatment unit in Northern Ireland today.

The Prince and The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Musgrave Park Hospital in South Belfast to see the new state-of-the-art rehabilitation facilities after arriving in Northern Ireland for a series of engagements.

Their Royal Highnesses officially opened Northern Ireland's first Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit and toured the new complex meeting patients and staff.

In the gymnasium they met some of the 80 patients who will use the facility each year, including art history lecturer Susan Abraham.

Ms Abraham, 34, originally from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh but now living in East Belfast, suffered a brain haemorrhage during a fall at her home last September.

As she used an exercise bike as part of a programme to improve her stamina and boost her recovery, The Prince chatted to her about her progress.

She said later: “The Prince was very understanding.

“He told me he also had a fall. It was a riding accident while playing polo and he said he could understand how a head injury affects your functioning in general.

“He was very interested in my own memory and thankfully it's quite good so it's obviously coming back.”

During the visit The Prince and The Duchess were told by staff about the range of nursing, physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, social work and counselling services used to give patients greater independence and reintegrate them into the community.

Their Royal Highnesses also met Dr Patricia Durkin, chair of the National Osteoporosis Society Belfast Support Group.

The Duchess is President of the National Osteoporosis Society.

The Duchess presented a gift on behalf of the society to Joan Morris, a founder member of its Belfast support group.

But before unveiling a plaque to officially open the new unit in front of around 50 invited guests, they both also spoke to a young patient who has used the facilities in the later stage of a lengthy recovery from an horrific accident.

Clare Soutar, 21, was knocked down by a car on a pelican crossing in Whiteabbey, North Belfast, in April 2000.

Her brain injuries were so severe that she was left with both legs paralysed.

Since then, however, she has shown remarkable courage and tenacity to recover movement in the right side of her body and can now sit and stand with assistance.

After meeting The Prince and The Duchess, she said: “I'm trying to get back on my feet again. Prince Charles told me just to keep working hard.”

Her mother, Susan Soutar, told Their Royal Highnesses that her daughter had not let her injuries lessen her control on the family.

“Clare has three brothers and Prince Charles said that he hoped she was still the boss. We told him, very much so,” she said smiling.

Later Their Royal Highnesses joined 2,500 guests in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle, Co Down for a garden party hosted by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

The Prince and The Duchess met dignitaries including Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland Office Permanent Secretary Jonathan Phillips and Nigel Hamilton, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

They were also introduced to Lieutenant General Sir Redmond Watt, General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland, and a number of military personnel serving in the province.

The health sector, including the complementary health sector, was the theme of the event.

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