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Issue 319 – A Happy Hydro New Year

Despite the doom and gloom of cutbacks and the recession, there is great news for Frome!

After over 10 years of fund-raising, challenges and setbacks, work is about to start on the construction of Harry’s Hydro at a site adjoining Critchill School.
Work is scheduled to start at the beginning of this month, and it is aimed to have the hydrotherapy facilities ready to open in the autumn of this year.
Fund-raising, both locally and nationally has produced some £300,000 which will cover the building costs. The aim of the project is to be self-financing when open and operating. The trustees are still actively fundraising to cover equipment and ancillary costs.
The hydrotherapy pool will be a community facility available to user groups, as well as serving the special needs of children at Critchill School. The trustees have a number of groups already eager to make regular bookings when the facility opens. The groups range from toddlers to the elderly who also have special needs. There is currently some spare capacity for additional user groups, but demand is expected to be high. The pool will be open seven days a week from 9.00am to 9.00pm depending on demand.
Why Harry’s Hydro project was started is best explained in Paula Fox’s own words, “Our son Harry Fox was born on 1st December 1998. In the maternity ward at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, Harry caught an infection and suffered a complete shut-down on day four. He spent weeks in intensive care, but despite surviving, he was left profoundly brain damaged.
“This is a nightmare for any parent. Harry was about as bad as it gets – he couldn’t move, swallow, see, hear or blink. Our job was to make him as comfortable as possible, and give him love.
“We discovered the best thing we could do for Harry was to swoosh him around in a warm pool. He would relax completely, and there was a sparkle in his eye. The only time he ever moved anything was when we took him to a very warm pool. This tested ‘blind’ child would look at the lights in the wall and when we turned round to walk the other way – he would struggle and move his head to see them properly on the new side. We knew he loved this, and he would come out completely loose and relaxed and content, and he’d sleep soundly. It was his way of smiling.
“The best form of treatment for Harry and people like him is hydrotherapy – physio and multi-sensory stimulation in a specially heated facility.
“We learnt that although Harry was an extreme case, hydrotherapy can help a huge range of ailments, from arthritis to cerebral palsy, and it’s extremely effective for those with mental, sensory and learning difficulties as well. Hydrotherapy, however, while being simple and effective, is not that easy to come by. Harry did not have access to the one therapy which would have brought him the most benefit and stimulation.
“Harry died at 13 months, on 28th December 1999. He’d fought valiantly through numerous infections and illnesses – a real trooper, but he’d decided to go to the real 2000 millennium birthday party.”
Peter Bennett, Harry’s Hydro Trustee said, “Paula and Digby Fox launched the charity and started fundraising in June 2000, and they have invested a huge amount of enthusiasm and energy into the project. Dame Ellen MacArthur agreed to be patron of the new charity. There were two sides to the project – researching and learning all there is to know about hydrotherapy and pools; and secondly, finding the funds to make it possible. Expert advice was sought on the best design of the pool and facilities, with the invaluable input of Dr Helen Whitelock, who is a world renowned authority on hydrotherapy and who for several years was a lecturer at the Bath National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, which is the UK’s leading establishment for training hydrotherapists. Harry’s Hydro research and design won a national award.
“There is a lack of hydrotherapy facilities in the Frome area, and a severe shortage of capacity in the region. There is little chance of any government or council facilities being provided in this age of cut-backs. Harry’s Hydro is an example of David Cameron’s dream of ‘the big society’ – local people getting on with projects and not just waiting for someone else!
“The project has been driven by Paula Fox through good times – when the fundraising was going well. And through the less good times – when doubt arose over use of the Critchill School site; when complications occurred with the lease from Somerset County Council; and when the funding for Critchill children to use the pool was withdrawn. The intervention of Frome Town Council last year saved the project from collapse.
“The trustees are enormously grateful to the people of Frome who have contributed to the fund and to those who have given their time and effort in making this project a reality. A list of donors and other information is available on our web-site
“Paula Fox has been supported by a loyal but small band of trustees. Harry’s Hydro Appeal is now in need of enthusiastic volunteers from the community to help with a very varied range of tasks. In particular, we are looking for someone with hydrotherapy or physiotherapy background to assist on pool use and policies. We are also looking for assistance with removal of top-soil from the site, and the surfacing of the car park.”
The contract has been awarded to Westcountry Leisure Spa & Pool Services Ltd, who are specialist pool builders based in Torquay and covering the South West. The actual building will have timber construction and is being supplied by specialist company Norwegian Log Buildings Ltd.
If you are interested in finding out more about Harry’s Hydro, either as a potential user, or as a volunteer helper or donor, please contact Peter Bennett on 01373 472406 or Helen Woodhead on 01373 474127.