Chris Hall was fulfilling his dream of living and working in Australia when catastrophe struck.
After training to be a tree surgeon at Merrist Wood Agricultural college, Chris worked for a while in the UK before leaving for a life in the sun and found a brilliant new job in Sydney.
He was enjoying his new life, making new friends, soaking up the sun and working hard, but disaster struck when the tree he was working on fell 60ft, taking Chris with it.
This fall, from what turned out to be a rotten tree, left the 25-year-old Chris with a traumatic brain injury in an horrific accident.
Now four years on, after intensive rehabilitation in Australia, then in the UK, Chris has learnt to walk again and talk. In the next couple of weeks he will be moving back to his parents’ house which has been specially adapted to suit his needs. He has his own independent 'pad’ at the side of the property.
Chris has been coming to Thrive in Beech Hill every other week for just over a year. He says he looks forward to coming to Thrive and gives him good reason to get out of the bed in the morning!
"I like to be moving my hands and getting them in the soil. I love being outdoors, I can think better. I know that I sleep better too when I have been outside for a day," he said.
"When I am at Thrive I give it my all – it takes a lot out of me, but in a good way."
Zoe, an Occupational Therapist who has been working with Chris for two years said she has noticed a huge difference in him.
"Since Chris has been coming to Thrive, along with going to the gym, visiting shops and learning lots of new things there has been a marked improvement in his mobility and balance, his stamina and levels of fatigue.
"He is motivated and enjoys looking after his own plot at Thrive, which he wants to be as colourful as possible!
"Being at Thrive also inspired Chris to take on a little bit of gardening therapy at the rehabilitation unit where he has been living.
"I hope his love of gardening will continue when he moves back home."
Each year, 1.4 million people attend emergency departments in England and Wales with a recent head injury, according to figures from NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).
Unlike most other injuries, a brain injury doesn't simply heal in time and many people who sustain a moderate or severe brain injury will never fully recover to be the person they once were and live the life they once lived.
But with the right help, at the right time, there can be life after brain injury – Chris is an inspiring example of this.
Gardening when you have a brain injury can help people in many ways, most noticeably in reducing agitation levels and aggressive behaviours as it is a calming and meaningful activity.
And the NHS is starting to take note of the many benefits therapeutic gardening can bring, in particular after the 2016 publication of the Kings Fund report, Gardens And Health: Implications for policy and practice.
The report calls for greater recognition and integration of gardens in NHS and public health policy and makes several recommendations.
These include calling on CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) to consider social prescribing of gardening as part of a range of approaches to improving health and looking to local authorities and their partners to explore innovative approaches to sustaining public gardens.
The health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse and the report, which featured evidence from Thrive, suggested that gardens can play a role in promoting good health and preventing ill-health, with potential long-term implications for healthcare costs.
If you have been moved my Chris’ story, please consider making a donation
to Thrive so we can continue to help people living with a brain injury.