Survivors of serious brain injuries in Suffolk have been recognised for showing extraordinary courage during their rehabilitation.
Five inspirational people who use the services of Headway Suffolk received the ‘Brain Injury Survivor of the Year’ awards at a ball organised by the charity on Saturday.
Among the recipients were Martin Patient, who has attended the charity’s Bury St Edmunds hub since 2012, and Philip Symonds, of Bacton, near Stowmarket.
Helen Fairweather, CEO of Headway Suffolk, said: “Their achievements are truly inspirational.
“The evening is about recognising the incredible courage and determination of people who have suffered very serious brain injury.”
Mr Patient, 65, says he was on ‘downward spiral’ after suffering seven debilitating strokes over a four year period from 2010.
The former financial adviser, who enjoyed a physically active life, said: “I was paralysed in my right leg and had just got myself onto a walking stick when I had the other strokes and that did my left leg, arm, left side of my face and my speech so I was falling apart bit by bit.
“I’m not the man I was before - I was precise accurate and knew exactly where I was going. My level of self confidence had completely gone.”
As he gradually regained his physical abilities though, Headway, in Bury St Edmunds, helped him regain his sense of self and made him realise there were others on a similar journey. A fan of DIY and art, he has relearnt how to paint, take photographs and use a computer. He also helps other Headway clients with creative activities.
On the award, Mr Patient, of North Lopham, in Norfolk, said: “I’m elated - to get the award is like a stepping stone achievement back into the real world. It’s a permanent reminder that actually I’m getting better. I can now make a contribution both to my home life but also to other people at Headway aswell.”
Meanwhile, Philip Symonds is involved with Headway after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a head-on car crash in 1988 when he was just 20-years-old.
He had to learn to walk again and had no memory.
Since joining Headway - first in Colchester and then in Ipswich - the 47-year-old has made ‘unbelievable progress’.
His dad Bryan, 72, said: “He’s got more confidence now. He still has no short term memory. He’s moved on so much - he goes to the gym once a week and goes swimming and bowling. Without the guidance of Headway I don’t think we would be anywhere near where we are now.”
Bryan praised chief executive Helen Fairweather for going ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ when his wife Patricia died in 2006 at Ipswich Hospital. He said: “When we knew she was nearly going, Helen came and sat with me to look after Philip. It was a great comfort.”
He said Philip is ‘very proud’ of his award and it is a ‘tremendous achievement’.
Headway Suffolk supports anyone aged over 16 who has suffered a brain injury through an accident, stroke, virus, tumour or neurological conditions. It also pays for a counsellor to help survivors with law firm Slater and Gordon, which specialises in serious brain injury cases, helping pay the counsellor’s salary.