Dan joined Dame Hannahs 22 years ago when he was 8 years old. He went through all the classes in our school before moving on to Hannahwood to join our young adults. He lives in Marchesi bungalow with Hannah Antonio, Will Clark and Bex Nash whom he has known since his schooldays. Dan has quadriplegic cerebral palsy resulting from neo-natal meningitis. He uses a wheelchair and is nominally non-verbal, but a great communicator.
Mum Jane talks about Dan’s time at Dame Hannahs:
Dan is very easy going and good-natured with a great sense of humour and always gets the jokes. He is always smiling and brings out the best in people and he loves charming the ladies! He is treated by his three older brothers as one of the boys and makes his own decisions. He always loved the rough and tumble of family life although he could be sensitive in different contexts. As he has grown and matured, he has become better at being independent and coping with new situations and people.
I think back to the first time I took Dan to visit Dame Hannahs. He was eight - theoretically too young to join the school - but he seemed to know that this was a place that knew how to help him achieve his potential and he talked ‘scribble’ all the way home in the car. He was quickly playing a full part in the life of the school, and managed the travel to and from our home in Cornwall so well – exhausting though it must have been for a little boy; thanks in large part to a brilliant taxi team who picked him up early and dropped him off late. In due course Dan stayed at school one night a week, to give him a rest from travel, and again he took it in his stride.
As he grew, one night became two, and while we missed him dreadfully, it was clear that he got so much out of being able to spend leisure time with friends and staff that it was absolutely the right thing to do. In due course, he moved to post-16 and post-19 in the bungalows. He matured significantly in this time, and arrivals and partings got easier, but of course Chris and I moved further away following my ordination as a Church of England priest, so get-togethers were less frequent. Thank goodness for electronic communication methods. During lockdown - which was the hardest thing of all - we didn’t see Dan in person for nigh on 18 months and lost a Christmas completely (one of Dan’s brothers was also locked down in Manchester that year) but we finally had Christmas all together in 2021. To be in Ivybridge for Dan’s 29th birthday was very special - we had a trip to Dartmouth, with lunch and a river cruise - and ice cream of course!
I cannot praise the staff highly enough for all they have done and continue to do for us as a family - way above and beyond the call of duty. Theirs is truly a vocation, not just a job. Bruce Baker is an absolute hero, but Linzi, Tony, Dan (the other Dan!) and others too numerous to mention really care for him and support him, so that he can enjoy life to the
full. They worked unbelievably hard during lockdown to keep the young people occupied when they must all have been going absolutely stir-crazy.
We have seen so much progress in Dan over the years at Dame Hannahs but the main developments have been his independence and general maturity - which I guess is what you’d expect somewhere between the ages of 8 and 30! With all our arrivals and partings he used to cry or at least be sad at both, but now he knows that these things are going to happen and he can deal with them. He still needs a bit of support but manages much better.
There have been so many highlights that no one particular event stands out. There have been all sorts of celebrations - wearing hats and eating cake - the laughter and the normality of it all. For us as a family, the joy and relief of each new bit of progress happening because people cared - the moves from school to post-16, then to Young Adults and now knowing that he is assured of a home for a good many years to come means a huge amount. He is very happy at Dame Hannahs, loves joining in all activities and enjoys living in Marchesi with his old friends.
When Dan started at Dame Hannahs it really did change our lives. He was in mainstream primary school but it clearly wasn’t going to work in the long term, so I did a lot of research and visited every special education unit in Cornwall, asking endless questions but nowhere felt quite right for Dan. I finally found Dame Hannahs and talked to the Principal at that time, Bill Evans. I visited alone and then with Dan and just knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was the only place I would entrust with Dan’s ongoing education and care. Not only were they a school, but they also had therapists – physio, speech and language, occupational – who could really integrate physical therapies with the education of the children and young people. We had to battle to persuade Cornwall County to fund his place at Dame Hannahs and it was thanks in part to the local school doctor who said “inside Daniel Bradbury is a very bright little boy trying to get out”. That moment still makes me well up all these years later, but I think he made it!