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24 Sept 2020

Humans of Kent: Joanne Hennigan, Head of Marketing & Communications, Kent

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We Are Family - and what it means to me

16th September 2017 was the day I got the phone call and life would never be the same again. My dad had fallen off the roof of his house whilst doing repairs and broken his spine in two places. It was 10 days before his 65th birthday.

After surgery, a long and dark six-month hospital stay followed when we all tried to adjust to the news he was paralysed from the waist down. My dad’s philosophy has always been to “pull your socks up and get on with it” but this was the first time I’d seen him both mentally and physically broken.

At a time in his life where he should’ve been getting ready to enjoy his retirement (which he no doubt would’ve spent creating a garden to rival Monty Don’s and enjoying many days rambling through the countryside), he was now facing the reality that his later years in life would be without the use of his legs.

My dad has always been my rock. The person who, prior to his accident, had spent the previous 3 years helping me out with my three young boys. It’s the simple things you miss. On particularly testing days he would make me an egg butty and a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit and everything felt like it would all be OK. We’d spend hours while the kids napped putting the world to rights. It was a time when I bonded with my dad in a different way to the father-daughter relationship we’d had for the previous 40 years.

Shortly after this accident happened, Kentech launched it’s We Are Family campaign, the core message being to care for the welfare of your colleagues like you would a family member, but also to teach your family about risks and hazards in your home environment the same way we do at work. Bringing the two parts of our lives together in our thinking. This family philosophy has been truly embraced by all our people, no matter their situation or background, culture, faith or gender.

I worked on the initiative in it’s early days of launch yet it was only about a year later, when John Gilley was on a trip to Kazakhstan and presenting to the local team there, that I found out the whole thing was inspired by what happened to my dad. My good friend Mandy Kennedy was on the same trip as John and videoed him telling the local team about it. I was both completely floored and enormously touched in equal measure.

It gives both me and my family an enormous sense of pride to know that something so good came out of something so personally tragic for us.

Last week was the three year anniversary of my dad’s accident and my respect for this man has grown even more than I ever thought was possible. He pulls his socks up and gets on with it. Don’t get me wrong, he faces frustrations in daily life you and I couldn’t ever imagine but he is fully independent and loving life again. I mean the guy mows his own lawn – from his wheelchair! There is literally nothing that will stop him from doing what he wants to do. And when it comes to things like changing a light fitting – he just makes a joke out of it. The guy’s got gumption and I can only hope a little bit of it somehow rubs off on me.

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