PARATROOPER Ben Parkinson, who was horrifically injured in Afghanistan three years ago, jointly opened a new 'super surgery' in Doncaster -- his way of thanking the local NHS for the rehabilitation help he is receiving that is transforming his life.
Ben, who earlier this year was told he would never be able to speak or walk, was determined to say a few words of thanks before joining Don Valley MP Caroline Flint in unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of NHS Doncaster's The Heathfield Centre at Hatfield.
His mum, Diane Dernie, said Ben was uncertain about what the future would hold when he was discharged from the Army's Headley Court rehabilitation centre earlier this year but his progress has been so amazing that he now refers to his NHS physiotherapist and speech therapist as "miracle workers".
Built at a cost of £4 million, The Heathfield Centre is home to a large family doctor practice, a pharmacy and a range of community services, including health visiting, district and school nursing. Three local people - Katie Abeysekera, Laurel Dene and Lisa Swainston - won a competition organised by NHS Doncaster to name the building, drawing their inspiration from the Roman name for Hatfield.
It has been built alongside Hatfield High School Visual Arts College as a replacement for the outdated single-storey Hatfield Health Centre which is just a short distance away.
Ben, a lance bombardier with 7 Para RHA, is now back living at home in Doncaster and was made Yorkshire Man of the Year in October 2009. His website www.benschallenge.com reports that he is receiving outstanding support from the NHS's Doncaster Neuro Outreach Team. On 11 April, next year he is planning to canoe around Doncaster's Lakeside as part of an event to raise money to pay for equipment for the outreach team and Blesma, the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association.
Roger Greenwood, Chairman of NHS Doncaster, said: "I am delighted that Ben and Caroline agreed to take part in the official opening ceremony. A few years ago we made a commitment to the people of Hatfield that we would provide them with a modern health centre, purpose-built to provide 21st century health care, and this marks the completion of our promise."
Children from four local schools - Crookesbroom, Sheep Dip Lane, Travis Church of England and Manor Church of England - have produced artwork which is on permanent display at the Centre. During the construction period, youngsters from Crookesbroom filled a time capsule containing items of local interest which was buried near the entrance to the building.
For further information please contact Matthew.Gibson@doncasterpct.nhs.uk or 01302 566249