Loving Couples

in Features

The everyday challenges of all loving couples can vary from financial, Psychological to emotional.

However, when a partner is profoundly injured or seriously ill during their relationship, the impact can be immeasurable.

Jacqueline Ross, 33, from Motherwell, Scotland and Martin Tavendale, 31,

have been in a relationship for two years. Private Tavendale was an RLC, 400 troop in Catterick originally from Wishaw.

“The accident happened on 1st December 2018,” Martin explains. “I was based in Catterick and had just been promoted from Private to Lance Corporal. I was getting ready to finish for Christmas leave. I was out celebrating and then 10 days later I woke up in hospital.

“I had tried to make my own way back to camp and had fallen asleep at the side of the road. At four o’clock in the morning, a lorry ran over me, crushing my pelvis and rupturing my internal organs.

“A friend heard the noise and ran over and started first aid, stemming the bleeding. His actions are a significant part of why I am still here today.” 

Jacqueline, who lives in Motherwell, was unaware what happened until hours later.

“I was on the train going into the Christmas market in Edinburgh,. Martin’s sister phoned me and she told me that Martin had had an accident. No one knew what had happened to him or if he was okay. I got the next train home and my dad drove me to the hospital, five hours from where we were. I contacted everyone I knew in his troop but no one had any information. I didn’t know if he would be alive when I got there.

We were told to prepare for the worst, that he may not make it through the night. I was just speechless. When I first went in and saw all the tubes, it was very overwhelming. I don’t think you can put into words what it feels like. To see somebody in that position. It’s true what they say, you don’t expect it to happen to you or anybody you know.”

Martin was saved by the staff at James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough, and went through hours of gruelling surgeries, was in and out of a coma and spent weeks in intensive care. 

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Martin says, “I thought I’d crashed my car or something. I never actually found out the full story until the police came in one day with my sister.”

After multiple surgeries, two comas, and time in intensive care, Martin is still recovering from a broken pelvis, a burst artery, damage to his internal organs and damage to his leg. The couple have both had to come to terms with, knowing he might never walk again, and Jacqueline suffers from anxiety triggered by the accident.

Martin and Jacqueline had been together for just a year when the accident happened. He proposed while he was in hospital.

“I was waking from my second coma, I was tired, sore, and Jacqueline was still sat in the chair next to the bed. I was just thinking when this is over, I want to spend the rest of my life with her, so I asked her if she’d marry me. She thought I was out of it, off my face on medication, and she said ‘ah yes, you’ll forget about that in ten minutes’, but I really meant it.

“We hadn’t been together that long, and if it was too much for her I could completely appreciate that. Its life changing and it’s not initially what she signed up for – but she stayed.

For Jacqueline, the accident has taken a toll on her own mental health too.

“Seeing somebody nearly die twice, shocks you.” Jacqueline says. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Being called to say goodbye because the doctors didn’t think he was going to make it.

“I sat by his side every day for five weeks, but to me he’s still Martin. I don’t see him any differently, so I didn’t plan on going anywhere.

“I still struggle to sleep, and I think that is due to moving from hotel to hotel for six months, in different rooms, even at Christmas, while he was in hospital. 

Jacqueline and Martin are determined to be together as much as possible, so every month she travels from Scotland to Staffordshire. She stays at Norton House, an accommodation facility run by SSAFA, two miles from where Martin is being rehabilitated.

“I think this place is phenomenal” Jacq says, “It’s nice to be around people that are experiencing similar situations to you. People back home don’t fully understand and sympathise with what we’re going through, especially our guardian angel Michelle who manages the house.  I spend most of my time with her. 

‘When I started coming here, I always used to just go to my room, and I would sit there, but now I talk, cry, hug, drink tea. It all matters.  It’s a home from home that has helped me cope with the trauma. It’s a sanctuary.”

For Martin, Norton House has been an essential part of his recovery, as his friends and family stay when they visit him, as well as Jacqueline.

Martin is in a manual wheelchair and can move about more freely and is even taking on a push up challenge to raise money for SSAFA.

“Time is the biggest healer and it gets easier; I’ve just got to find new passions and keep pushing on. You only get one shot being here and I’m lucky I still am here. I still have bad nights where I’m in agony but slowly things are improving.”

“I want to give a little something back and say thank you to SSAFA for helping Martin’s family a lot through this” Jacq explains

If you would like to help support others like Jacqueline and Martin please donate here: ssafa.org.uk/donate

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