‘They said I’d never walk, talk or do anything for myself again’

Terry Dukes suffered severe brain injuries and lasting damage to an eye after a car accident in Malaysia where he was working Picture:  Malcolm Wells (170125-5842)
Terry Dukes suffered severe brain injuries and lasting damage to an eye after a car accident in Malaysia where he was working Picture: Malcolm Wells (170125-5842)
Have your say

Imagine spending your days travelling the world teaching scuba diving.

Living in beautiful countries and swimming in crystal clear waters for a job.

Terry Dukes

Terry Dukes

For Terry Dukes, that was his life for a long time.

He travelled around south east Asia, visiting new countries, learning new cultures and meeting new people. He was living the dream.

But five years ago that all fell apart when he was involved in a car accident.

It left him with a severe traumatic brain injury and what followed was two years in hospital as he recovered and gradually learned to walk and talk again.

The 54-year-old now lives in Gosport and is rebuilding his life. But it’s very different to the life he once led.

‘I first got into scuba diving when I was about 25,’ he says.

‘I went on holiday to Australia and then I did my first diving course in England.

‘Then I went backpacking around for the world for a year to do lots more diving. I became a far better diver there than I had ever been here.’

Terry returned to England and did another course to enable him to teach diving abroad.

‘Then I met a girl who became my wife,’ he adds.

‘We went round the world together to south east Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines. We both became diving instructors.

‘We travelled around the world for about 15 years together. I spent most of my time in Malaysia.’

It was a dream come true and for many a life that they would never get the chance to live. Terry had found something he loved to do which gave him so many opportunities in life.

But then in 2012 Terry suffered the life-changing accident.

He and his wife had split up as she had decided to return to the UK and Terry decided he wanted to stay.

He went on to meet a new girlfriend and they were planning their life together.

At the time, he had just got a new job as a marine engineer in Brunei. They had been out to celebrate and the accident happened when the pair had a row and she ended up accidentally knocking him over, leaving him with a serious brain injury.

‘She jumped in the car to drive off and I jumped on the outside of the car to try and stop her. I fell into the road’, Terry says.

Terry had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was in a coma in Brunei for five months following the accident.

Friends of his got together and raised money to fly him back to the UK, but doctors said it wasn’t safe due to the air pressure.

Eventually, he was given permission to fly home thanks to a helping hand from a friend who, amazingly, had connections with the Sultan of Brunei and pleaded for help to get Terry home.

So he was flown back. But it was a long recovery for Terry following the accident.

He had several operations and had to undergo intensive rehabilitation to try and allow him to live his life again.

He was warned that his life would be very different and that he may never walk again. But he didn’t let that stop him.

‘When I left the QA Hospital I was told I would never talk, walk or do anything for myself again,’ he adds.

‘But my physio nurse convinced me that I would. She pushed me. She eventually had me running around the grounds of the hospital.

‘She had me doing hydrotherapy in the swimming pool.

‘I have always been a very stubborn person. At the time of the accident I was very fit. I used to go running.

‘It was my stubbornness that got me through it. Every time I was told that I wouldn’t do something I would prove them wrong and do it.

‘I’m very pleased that I can do what I have done. When I was in hospital I was told that it was a very long and slow road to recovery.

‘But I can now do a lot of things.’

Terry is now hoping he can fulfil a dream to return to his old life temporarily.

‘This year I am hoping to go on holiday to Malaysia with a friend of mine. I have still got lots of friends out there who dive.

‘I am hoping to go for a very shallow dive. It’s all to do with whether the pressure will affect my brain or not.’

Terry left hospital in Salisbury two-and-a-half years ago. He now lives in Gosport with a family who support him through a Shared Life scheme.

The UK-wide scheme is an alternative to care homes and home care for disabled adults and older people.

The family Terry lives with help to support him and look out for him by doing his washing and his cooking, while also giving him independence and freedom when he craves it.

‘My day-to-day life now is quite boring,’ he adds.

‘I used to lead such a hectic life as well. It’s a massive difference.

‘I was a scuba diving instructor diving around the world, surrounded by sharks and marine life.

‘I led a very active life. Now I do nothing at all.

‘I’ve now decided that I am going to go for a walk every day. In Gosport I walk to the seafront and to the shops and to the museum.’

Terry volunteers at a Barnado’s shop twice a week. He is planning to study for an A-level in counselling.

‘I’ve had so much counselling in my life that I thought if I could get a job doing it then I could give something back,’ he adds.

But there is one other distraction that helps him get through the day – and that is writing a book.

He first began when he was in hospital and was given a special type of software that enabled him to communicate with his computer without having to type anything.

He has now written two books entitled 1,700 Days Of Hell and 1,800 Days Of Hell And Other Stories which refer to his long period of recovery.

‘They are both about my accident. I thought it might help people get through their problems and see that there is life at the end of the tunnel,’ he says.

‘I have been through periods in my life where I have been in a lot of pain. I used to think “why did they bother saving my life?”.

‘Now I am still in a lot of pain. I get a lot of headaches.

‘But I have all my memories. I can remember all my life beforehand.

‘I have had nearly everything and now I have nothing. I have lived the lives of 10 men. I lived a wild life.

‘I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen with my life now. But I know I’m lucky to still be here.’

To find out more about Terry and his writing, please visit terrydukeswriting.com.

To find out more about the Shared Lives Scheme and how you might be able to help, please go to sharedlivesplus.org.uk.