Amy Cowley, of Felsham, shares her story to help highlight Headway Suffolk brain injury awareness week Brain Drain campaign
A Felsham woman has shared her story to highlight brain injury awareness week, which started today.
Amy Cowley, 37, was 20 months old when her family car was struck by a vehicle while on holiday in Cornwall in July 1983. She was in a coma for a month and as the pressure of the swelling on her brain reduced she started to have fits.
As a result of her injuries Amy spent her schooling in the learning difficulties educational system, before going to residential college aged 16 for a three-year course to help with life skills following brain injury.
On returning to Suffolk Amy went on to higher education and spent a year at neururehabilitation centre Fen House, in Ely, for intensive rehabilitation, where she also helped out in a cattery.
Since 2008 she has lived independently in a detached bungalow in the grounds of the family home.
“Every single college I went to I passed at everything. I’ve got loads of qualifications. I did a second year at Otley so I could get a job in a cattery but since then I haven’t got anywhere. I’d love to do animal care," said Amy.
Amy's difficulties are not visible, which is why brain injury is often described as a ‘hidden disability’.
In the accident Amy suffered damage to her frontal lobe. It left her with difficulties with her executive functioning, which controls and regulates planning, problem solving, flexible thinking, self-awareness and organised behaviour patterns.
Amy, who also has short-term memory loss and suffers with anxiety, now volunteers twice a week at the British Heart Foundation charity shop, in Bury St Edmunds. She holds a Headway brain injury identity card that identifies her difficulties to explain her behaviour to those unaware.
Headway Suffolk started supporting Amy in August 2017. In November 2018 she received recognition at its annual awards for gaining confidence in herself and for expanding her skills in areas including textiles, numeracy and literacy.
She says attending the charity’s Bury hub has helped her to improve her planning and problem solving skills, confidence and allowed her to be creative.
As part of brain injury awareness week, Headway is calling for more awareness around fatigue, which is the most commonly cited effect of brain injury reported by 11,000 callers to the charity’s helpline each year.
A recent survey of more than 3,000 brain injury survivors found that 87 per cent of respondents felt that fatigue has a negative impact on their life, while 80 per cent of respondents felt their life would be improved if people had a better understanding of fatigue.
“I do find it hard getting tired all the time and it affects my concentration,” said Amy.
Helen Fairweather, Headway Suffolk chief executive, said: "We support a number of brain injury survivors who are forced to live with the long-lasting effects of their injury.
"Fatigue – or excessive tiredness – is just one of the many effects of a brain injury and it can be widely misunderstood.
"Many of our service users battle with debilitating fatigue on a daily basis."
To find out more about Headway Suffolk, visit www.headwaysuffolk.org.uk