Brave outlook on life lands Charley award

Friday 26th April 2019 7:48 am
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Charley (left) was nominated for the bravery award at the BASH Awards by his primary carer, Amy Custerson

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A man who has shown bravery in the face of adversity has been recognised and awarded by Devon & Cornwall Police.

Charley Mooney, who has severe autism, Raynaud’s disease and diffuse scleroderma, was nominated for the bravery award in the 2019 BASH Awards which took place in Exeter.

When he was given the award, Charley said it “made him feel great”.

The BASH Awards, which stands for Be Active, Be Safe and Be Healthy, are put on every year by Devon & Cornwall Police to celebrate the success of people with disabilities living in Devon.

Amy Custerson, who is a community learning disability nurse and Charley’s primary carer, works with Charley around his physical health needs, and nominated him for the award.

She supports his access to primary care services and anything else that ensures Charley is not discriminated against.

Charley was referred to the primary care liaison nurse team back in August 2017 after Charley’s family had increasing concerns about him as he was gradually losing the ability to complete simple everyday tasks that he used to be able to do, such as get dressed in the morning, open bottles and jars, or walk for more than five minutes without having to sit down due to pain in his legs.

Amy said Charley had gone from a “fit, active young man who used to wear holes in his socks each day” to sleeping excessively and not being able to attend previously enjoyed activities including his much-loved job at Tesco in Kingsbridge.

After months of liaising, GP appointments, blood tests, echocardiograms and scans in both Kingsbridge and Plymouth, Charley was referred to rheumatologist Dr Jon King at Derriford Hospital who diagnosed Charley with Raynaud’s disease with further investigations concluding a diagnosis of diffuse scleroderma.

Amy explained she attends the majority of Charley’s health appointments as they are challenging due to his autism and learning disabilities.

Charley has met a variety of professionals from consultants to nurses to occupational therapists, physiotherapists and podiatrists in overwhelming and unfamiliar environments.

Attending all of these appointments has inevitably resulted in Charley’s usual routine to be disrupted, and Charley has had to adapt his daily routines which are enormously important to him.

Amy said Charley has shown bravery in situations any of us would find frightening and challenging on the best of days, which is why she put him forward for nomination.

She said: “Despite his learning disabilities and severe autism, Charley continues to take medical appointments in his stride, and uses a variation of coping techniques that have been taught to him over the years, all while smiling and brightening up other people’s day with the variation of characters he chooses to be.”

Charley’s mum, Lisa Mooney, explained he likes to pretend to be different heroic characters and have people ask him who is.

Lisa then said: “But the way he copes with all that life has thrown at him means that to us he is the biggest hero of them all.”

Charley is now on medication and is monitored by his GP and rheumatology consultant regularly.

Amy said: “He is back to doing what he loves, including trips to Woodlands, Tesco, and of course, Grandma’s house.

“He is excelling at Rushbrook Day Centre, gaining crucial life skills and participating in bowling, cinema trips, clay workshops, hydrotherapy and walks here, there and everywhere. There has even been holes worn in socks again.”

His diagnosis of diffuse scleroderma is something that he has to live with, but Amy said it’s “quite clear” he will not let this stop him from being the person he wants to be, or the person everyone knows and loves.

She explained how much of a pleasure it has been getting to know and build a relationship with Charley’s family, who are his “biggest advocates”.

As a personal message to him, Amy said: “Charley you are an absolute star and it is such a pleasure working with you. You have taught me so much and continue to surprise me with your bravery, and making me smile, laugh and learn along the way. So thank you!”

Charley’s mum Lisa said: “As Charley’s family we would like to say that he lights up our lives and how wonderfully proud we are of him.”

His family also wanted to give a huge thank you to “all the wonderful receptionists, nurses and doctors” at Norton Brook Medical Centre, South Hams Hospital and Derriford’s rheumatology department, as well as the staff at Rushbrook Day Centre, Safebreaks Holidays and Tesco, Kingsbridge.

Lisa said: “They have all made such an effort to understand and accommodate his extra needs and have shown us all such kindness and consideration particularly in these last two years. We will never be able to thank them enough.

“And to his marvellous PCLN nurse Amy Custerson who has been a constant support for the last two years, she has held us up all the way.

“We would also like to thank the people of Kingsbridge. Charley loves to talk to everyone and so many people make an effort to chat to him when we are out and about. 

“They will never know how much this means to him and us particularly when he was feeling really poorly - it really brightens his day. 

“Thank you all for your kindness.”

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