Tracheostomy Ted helps young visitors understand rehabilitation

Date: 14 February 2023

Tracheostomy Ted story

In April 2022, James from Warrington was struggling down his own garden path to get his neighbours attention, so they could call him an ambulance. James was suffering from a Stroke, which was caused by a massive bleed on the brain. 

James was stabilised in Whiston Hospital and then immediately transferred to The Walton Centre for lifesaving surgery and treatment. After spending weeks in intensive care, James woke up and found that he could only blink and use his big toe to communicate. 

He said: “When I woke up I knew I had been through something lifechanging. For two months I was unable to communicate much at all, but Annie, one of the Speech and Language Therapists, assessed me and found I could do basic communication [using a switch and an alphabet chart]. Working with the amazing team I was able to tell my wife I love her. It was a very emotional time.”  

Working with Annie Newcomen on his rehabilitation journey, James was able to communicate more and more using specialist methods, and finally have visitors.  

For a large part of James’ rehabilitation, he had a tracheostomy (a tube inserted into the windpipe to help him breathe), which unsettled his young children and became difficult to explain. 

James continued: “The kids would come and visit and be upset about all the different tubes and things I had attached to my body. The tracheostomy in my neck was particularly distressing for them and I couldn’t tell them properly that I was ok and it was actually helping. My Speech and Language Therapists, saw this and leapt into action!” 

Speech and Language Therapist Charlotte Lawrence and Therapy Assistant Emma Cottier saw there was a way to support James and his young family – with a teddy bear.  

Charlotte said: “The team had been discussing ways that we could facilitate James’ children coming into the hospital, to support his rehabilitation and make it a less scary experience for them. Emma’s daughter very generously donated one of her teddy bears to the ward. We gave the teddy bear a tracheostomy, similar to that of James’. We also provided James’ wife Claire with some information resources put together by our Rehab Network Parenting Group, so she could sit down and work through these with their children at home.” 

James said: “The tracheostomy ted was a gamechanger. My daughters were less anxious about it because they’d played with the teddy and talked about it with my wife. It meant that we could have proper visits and I could enjoy their company without having to answer loads of questions about it. I was finally able to get some hugs!

“The team at The Walton Centre are amazing. They could see we were struggling as a family and exceeded expectations by creating Tracheostomy Ted and the resources. I honestly think it helped with my rehabilitation too, because it was one less thing to worry about. I can’t thank them enough.” 

Once James’ children felt more confident in coming onto the ward, the multidisciplinary team arranged therapy sessions involving James’ children. The sessions included games and activities that encouraged interaction and play, whilst being tailored to James’ therapy goals. 

The Gilbert family were the first to use Tracheostomy Ted, and as part of the Rehab Network Parenting Group, Charlotte and Emma are working with The Walton Centre Charity to create more resources to help young family members understand brain injury, and be included in the rehabilitation journey. 




Notes to editors

Further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact the Communications Team at The Walton Centre on 0151 556 3397 or

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust is the only hospital trust in the UK specialising in neurology, neurosurgery and pain services. Although the majority of patients come from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Lancashire and the Isle of Man, for some specialist treatments of complex disorders we see patients from all parts of the country, referred by their GPs or other neurologists, neurosurgeons and pain clinicians.

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust was rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission. The independent regulator of all health and social care services in England published its rating on Friday 21 October 2016, following announced and unannounced inspection visits to the Trust in April 2016.

For more information please visit: or follow the Trust on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.


The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Lower Lane, Fazakerley, Liverpool L9 7LJ
0151 525 3611

  • Summary:

    In April 2022, James from Warrington was struggling down his own garden path to get his neighbours attention, so they could call him an ambulance. James was suffering from a Stroke, which was caused by a massive bleed on the brain.