‘Jack finally has a home to call his own’

Jack Farrugia (21) with (l-r) family friend Clark Spencer (18), Jack's cousin Becky Wareham (23), Jack's mum Lorraine Farrugia and brothers Tom Farrugia (18) and Joe Farrugia (20), outside his new house.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131703-8878)
Jack Farrugia (21) with (l-r) family friend Clark Spencer (18), Jack's cousin Becky Wareham (23), Jack's mum Lorraine Farrugia and brothers Tom Farrugia (18) and Joe Farrugia (20), outside his new house.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131703-8878)

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June 2013 is a big month for the Farrugia family.

It’s a milestone they could hardly have imagined when they were pacing the wards of Southampton hospital five years ago as their beloved Jack clung on to life.

It has been a long road – full of twists, turns and an unthinkable amount of heartache – but Jack is finally moving into his own home.

Jack, now 21 and a whopping 6ft 5in tall, will move into his own specially-converted bungalow in Havant Road, Drayton.

The property has been paid for by the £900,000 compensation from the car crash in November 2008.

It was just a normal day as the teenager, a talented footballer and the then captain of Havant & Waterlooville FC Academy, took a lift home to Baffins from South Downs College.

But the car lost control in Tangier Road, hitting a van, and leaving passenger Jack with serious brain damage.

He will probably never be able to walk or talk, or sit down and eat a home-cooked Sunday roast with his family, ever again.

But Jack’s warm personality and devilish sense of humour still shines through and he is laughing and smiling as he tours his new pad.

Jack’s mum Lorraine Farrugia, who lives in Stride Avenue, Baffins, where Jack has been living for the last 18 months in a converted lounge, says: ‘It’s taken six months to convert for Jack.

‘They have knocked down the back so the whole of the bottom half will be Jack’s.

‘He’s got a lot more space and we won’t be falling over each other any more.

‘He’s a big lad and has outgrown a couple of chairs.

‘He will have a lot more privacy.

‘The carers will be able to do a lot more hands-on therapy because he will have his therapy room.

‘He hasn’t had a bath for five years and he’s now got a bath in his bungalow.

‘Instead of sitting in the shower, he can lie in the bath and relax – all the kind of things we take for granted really.’

Jack will still require round-the-clock care in his new home, with nine carers in total working on a rota basis.

It costs £250,000-a-year for the care package.

The family will hear back next year if they are going to get any more compensation.

Although the mum-of-three is upbeat and remaining positive, the move to Drayton is a world away from what she hoped her eldest son would be doing at 21.

She imagined him having girlfriends, progressing his dreams of becoming a Pompey player, and generally doing all the fun things a red-blooded young man would do.

Lorraine looks back with mixed feelings about Jack’s 21st birthday.

‘They all turned up – there must have been about 100 people in the back garden having a drink,’ she says.

‘They all got to see Jack’s bungalow so that was nice.

‘It was not the same as it would be if it was one of the other boys. It’s quite a sad day.

‘He should have been there drinking with all his friends, not in his garden. He should have been out and about with his mates.

‘Sometimes you think it’s good, and then when you look at the other side of the coin, you think it’s sad.

‘You see photographs of all the boys on holiday and that saddens me.

‘Some days you can shake it and other days it can make you feel quite down.’

The driver of the car was fined and banned from driving for 12 months following a careless driving conviction.

Lorraine admits she still shops at the supermarket where the driver works and does sometimes get angry.

She says: ‘The world was his oyster and he had so many plans with his football career.

‘He will never know if any of that was possible because of the carelessness of an idiot driver. That does anger me a lot.

‘It was poor justice for Jack.

‘I will never get over it – I will take it to my grave.

‘You learn to live with it but some days are worse than others.’

For now the family concentrate on all the simple pleasures in life, whether it be taking the dogs out for a walk with Jack or going to watch a home game at Fratton Park and seeing his face light up as the Blues score a goal.

On the day I visit Jack has been to the cinema at Gunwharf ‘with the girls’ to watch Iron Man 3.

Lorraine says one of her biggest delights is seeing her son happy.

‘Sometimes he feels quite sentimental and will give you a little hug – that’s nice,’ she says.

‘I would rather see him laughing and smiling, rather than see him look sad and down, which he does do sometimes if he’s having a bit of a bad day.

‘We are just glad he’s made it this far.’

Jack does not have the swallowing reflex and so all his food and water goes through a peg directly into his stomach.

His weight fell to 8st after the crash, but he is now a healthy 14st.

His days are as full as they can be, with physio appointments, trips out and television programmes.

Lorraine, who was a dementia carer before she became a carer for Jack, says: ‘He can hold bottles and have a bit of a weight-lifting session with something that’s plastic.

‘He can remember people and he knows when it’s 7pm because he is a soap fiend.

‘If the telly is not turned over at 7pm, he lets you know.’

Jack’s favourite programmes are Emmerdale, Coronation Street, EastEnders and Deal or No Deal. He also loves comedy shows.

His brother Joe, 20, who is a part-time carer for Jack and hopes to do a hairdressing apprenticeship, says: ‘He likes coming out with the lads.

‘It’s better than just sitting in all day.

‘We had a day in the sun the other day and he enjoyed it.

‘I will always be angry, but you can’t dwell on it, otherwise it will bring everyone else down.

‘We are quite a strong family.

‘We just get on with it – that’s the only way to do it.

‘Me, Tom and Jack are best mates. I would say it has brought us closer.’

Lorraine adds that she is very proud of all her boys, not least Tom and Joe, who have had grow up quickly and become conscientious adults.

After the rollercoaster of the past five years, the family are looking forward to a holiday, with a trip to the Isle of Wight or even Spain on the cards, provided Jack can get clearance to fly.

And Lorraine, who has spent most of the last five years in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centres, is looking forward to a bit more ‘me’ time now her son has a home of his own.

But she knows her life will never be ‘normal’ again.

She adds: ‘When it first happened, I remember the first 17 days of Jack being in intensive care at Southampton.

‘That seemed like an eternity waiting for news.

‘Then when I look back at the last five years, it’s been such a long road, but he’s made the journey.

‘Things happen for a reason don’t they? You just have to get on with it and do your best.’

Progress

JACK’S health has steadily improved since the crash and he has made some progress.

He is currently trying out a mouse pad, which allows him to click icons on a screen.

This can tell his carers what he would like to do and whether he is in pain.

Mum Lorraine says: ‘He’s on less medication now.

‘He’s come on in physio.

‘His left side couldn’t do anything.

‘He can now lift his left leg up, lift his left arm and use it. The spasticity has calmed down a lot.’

Jack still has speech and language therapy.

Lorraine adds: ‘We do work on making sounds with him – whether that will come on I don’t know.’