Project News: Lanark

Angie's Remarkable Reunion

For over 50 years Jackie, along with her brothers Billy and Brian Main, believed that her twin sister Angie had died in care. Angie, who lives with Down Syndrome, was admitted to institutional care on the outskirts of Glasgow in the early 1960’s.

The family’s mother died shortly afterwards. From that point on the siblings had no means of maintaining contact with Angie. The siblings were told by an aunt that Angie had passed away, but this was untrue.

In actual fact Angie was alive and well, and has been supported by staff at our Lanark service since the early 1990’s.

“Restrictions over the Covid period have been largely associated with disconnection – but throughout this time we have finally been reconnected to my twin and our sister.” - Jackie Perratt

In early 2020 the siblings connected with a half-brother they never knew they’d had. “That turn of events was amazing in itself but it got us all thinking about Angie,” said Billy from Dumbarton. “I suppose we wanted final closure which led to a frustrating pursuit of the whereabouts of Angie’s death certificate.”

The family set about researching care homes near to Angie’s last known whereabouts. They discovered that Angie had made the move to Lanark, but were still none-the-wiser as to the fact that she was still alive.

Once contact had been made with the Lanark service, Susan and the team performed due diligence to establish that the siblings were who they claimed to be. Once this was complete the staff were able to confirm that Angie was still happily living in Lanark, and the stage was set for a tear-jerking reunion, nearly 60 years in the making.

In May 2020 the first lockdown was in force. The family sent flowers, a cake and a card for Angie’s 62nd birthday, but were unable to visit in person. By September restrictions had eased enough to allow in-person, socially-distanced visiting. A date was set for an outdoor reunion at Langloch Farm on Sept 29th.

Susan Kearns, Lanark Project Manager: “Angie is non-verbal and communicates through her facial expressions. We were able to talk her through everything and show her photographs her family sent, so she fully understood what was happening well before the first visit.”

Staff member Diana Reid made a fantastic ‘This Is Your Life’ style book for Angie’s family, with photos and captions from Angie’s missing years in Lanark, and prior to that, when she was at Bellefield hospital.

The family brought gifts for the residents, and presented staff with a big bouquet of flowers and a thank you card for looking after their sister – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

Billy said: “We first saw Angie and it just took me all the way back to when I was a child. I could see it in her eyes that she looked like my sister. They are incredible people at the Lanark Project. My simple words to all these carers are ‘thank you’. She’s had a full life – they’ve done so much for her.”

Brian added: “Everything everybody did for us at the care home was fabulous and it’s all been about how we could come back as a family. But her family is in the Lanark project and we’re there to visit her. We understand that, but we’re enjoying as much time as we can after all these years.”

Project Manager Susan: “Being reconnected has been a big boost for Angie – you can see it’s given her a huge lift. It’s been such a special time; it’s kept the staff going as well.”

“This was something we thought would – and could – never happen. It’s been staggering.” - Jackie.

The lockdown restrictions have posed problems for further visiting; Jackie has to drive up from Northumberland and back in a day whenever she wants to visit Angie. In spite of that she has still managed to visit 3 times, and stayed in touch over video calls. Billy and Brian are Scotland-based, so have been able to visit once a fortnight.

Susan and the team are currently working with Jackie, Billy and Brian to organise a long-lost family party for Sept 19th where the siblings will meet some of the family members of our other Lanark residents.

Val de Souza, Chief Officer of South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership paid tribute to the thoughtfulness of staff at the Lanark Project:

“Visiting restrictions have been in place to keep people safe and we acknowledge they have been very difficult for all concerned. The efforts of the staff at the Lanark Project have personified the wider, enduring compassion and dedication of all staff in care homes during these times to keep personal connections alive.

“Angie’s story is one of heart-breaking separation. We’re delighted to see this family reunited after all this time – and such a challenging year.”

 

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