Making Headway

Making Headway

by Kate O’Neill

Offering support to people with Acquired Brain Injury, Headway West Sussex provides invaluable resources and information to the community. Speaking from Headway, Kate O’Neill explains further.

It’s just lovely to be with a group of people [who] understand my problems and make me feel I’m not alone.”

These are recent words of a person with a brain injury who attends one of the support groups run by Headway West Sussex. When life is severely challenged after an injury, we’ve found that sharing feelings and experiences with others in the same boat is enormously helpful – and so a big part of what we do is bring people together.

It’s a little known fact that around 4,500 hospital admissions each year in West Sussex are due to an ‘ABI’. This stands for Acquired Brain Injury and describes someone who has sustained an injury after birth. You may wonder why the numbers seem so high and the answer lies in the very wide range of causes. Road accidents, assaults and falls are common but damage is also caused through a stroke, haemorrhage, illness or brain tumour. And of course, the brain is fragile and crucial to ensuring we can manage all aspects of our lives.

At Headway, we often say that “brain injury doesn’t just affect individuals – it affects whole families.” This is because symptoms create enormous challenges in everyday life. They include loss of concentration and memory, the sudden onset of extreme fatigue, issues with speech, language, hearing and sight, mood swings and difficulties with balance. These symptoms often go hand in hand with a lack of insight – into themselves and into those around them. Families may be coping with many of these symptoms but the person with the ABI is unaware of the difficulties and heartbreak it is causing. The partner of one of those we support explained, “it felt like they picked up a random stranger and put him down in our house with my kids.”

Headway West Sussex is an independent charity and specialises in supporting people with ABI in the community. Our focus is on providing good and timely information, organising peer support, providing individual support when life becomes more challenging and raising awareness amongst the public and organisations.

We produce an Information Pack available from our website or by post and run five monthly Support Groups where our facilitators introduce topics for discussion and encourage sharing of experiences. We work with individual people and families and help them steer through their difficulties. All that we do is designed to help people understand and cope with challenging symptoms, feel better able to manage their lives day to day – and not to feel so alone.

We fundraise continuously to keep going and depend entirely on the generosity of donors and charitable trusts. For further information visit www.headwaywestsussex.org.uk or call us on 07938 858153.