Helen Bowden

A severe stroke left Helen Bowden feeling low, isolated, confused and debilitated.

Helen, aged 42, struggled when she first came to Thrive. Her short term memory was badly affected by the stroke and she’d suffered and her speech was impaired. Helen had also suffered with migraines all her life after a brain tumour at the tender age of ten.

In April 2015 when Helen first arrived at Thrive, she was nervous and wanted to garden almost alone, in a quiet area of the garden.

She worked in Thrive’s Out of Sight Garden, with tall raised beds, and for the first time in her life grew tomatoes. Working alongside horticultural therapist Aggie Michalec, Helen became a dedicated and more sociable gardener.

"Every week when I came in I looked forward to seeing what the tomatoes were doing. When they were ready to harvest, it was so rewarding, they taste so different to the shop bought ones."

Helen also started potting on and weeding, and even sweeping up in the Thrive plant sales area. Aggie soon started to see a change in Helen. She became aware that Helen’s previous jobs involved working outside, so to be able to do this again was a real boost to her confidence and strength.

Helen also started working and socialising with the other client gardeners, having a laugh and joining in gardening as a team.

Aggie said: "Helen now wants to come here and she has certainly made some new friends. She can do some gardening out of her wheelchair, standing up and leaning on the tall raised beds we have.

"She has been actively joining in when we make soup over the winter and I’ve been so pleased to see the progress Helen has made."