Paralysed St Helens man denied funding because his wife works

Mike Hand of Laurel Road, Haydock, who was paralysed after doctors failed to detect a spinal tumour, with his wife Kate

Mike Hand of Laurel Road, Haydock, who was paralysed after doctors failed to detect a spinal tumour, with his wife Kate

  • 39-year-old dad left in a wheelchair by spinal tumour
  • He cannot claim benefits because wife works
  • Doctors don’t know if Mike will ever walk again
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A mum who claims her paralysed husband would not be in a wheelchair if doctors had spotted a spinal tumour sooner has been denied a disability grant to adapt their home... because she works full-time.

For years Kate Hand’s husband, Mike, repeatedly visited his GP complaining of pain and, although he was referred to hospital for a CAT scan, only an MRI would have picked up the rare, slow-growing tumour in his spinal cord.

If I gave up work we could claim for everything and would be entitled to everything but, because I work and would like to continue to work, we get no help. It’s a classic example of the system working against the worker

Mike Hand

Eventually the tumour was detected, but major surgery has now left him paralysed from the waist down and his family have been denied a disability grant - because of his wife’s earnings.

Kate said: “It’s crazy. I understand that benefits need to be means tested and I agree with that. But it’s not as if we are after ongoing weekly benefits - just funding to help us create a safe and comfortable home for my husband, who has suffered massively through no fault of his own.

“If I gave up work we could claim for everything and would be entitled to everything but, because I work and would like to continue to work, we get no help. It’s a classic example of the system working against the worker.”

Mike, of Haydock, was a regular visitor to Haydock Medical Centre for the best part of six years, but GPs thought the nagging pain he was experiencing was either muscle or posture-related.

Then, in July 2014, the 39-year-old was finally sent for an MRI scan after he reported that, while running, he felt like he couldn’t lift his feet off the ground.

Medics found a tumour in his spinal cord and a syrinx - a cyst caused by the build up of spinal fluid - which stretched half the length of his spine.

His neurosurgeon described the diagnosis as “a ticking time bomb”.

Sadly, due to existing nerve damage and the trauma of a 10-hour operation, Mike has since been left paralysed from the waist down, but is now nearing the end of his rehab at St Helens Hospital. Doctors are unable to tell him whether he will ever walk again.

But Kate, 35, a credit manager at Speedy Hire, reckons the strain on both her and her husband, and the couple’s eight-year-old daughter Mia, has intensified because of their inability to adapt their home.

She said: “We’ve been told that as long as we have a bed downstairs for him to sleep on and running water then he will be expected to return home.

“We live in a normal semi-detached house. We don’t have a bathroom or bedroom downstairs and my husband will be expected to spend all his time in the family living room with very little dignity or privacy.”

A St Helens Council spokesman said: “The council is bound by government means test guidelines, which unfortunately put Mr and Mrs Hand’s income above the threshold at which they would qualify for assistance.

“Having said that, we want to help - and are exploring other ways of supporting the family, including the possibility of direct payments to assist Mr Hand at home.

“We look forward to discussing these options with them.”

A Haydock Medical Centre spokeswoman said: “We would like to offer our sincere sympathies to the patient at this difficult time.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment further due to patient confidentiality, however we want to assure patients that we always aim to provide the best possible care.”