In 1994, 52-year-old Keith Emmanuel had been driving through busy traffic near to his home in Hackney, East London, when he suffered a terrible headache. The pain in his head was so extreme that he was forced to pull onto the island of a main-road roundabout to avoid losing control of his car.
Thankfully, a nearby police officer realised that something was seriously wrong and the former engineer was rushed to Whitechapel Hospital. Tragically, the headache turned out to be a serious brain haemorrhage, which left Keith in a coma with a severe brain injury that changed his and his family's lives forever.
"All I can remember of the day I was admitted to hospital was feeling a massive headache coming on," Keith recalled.
"I pulled over and next thing I knew a policeman was by my car window telling me I can't park on a main roundabout! Everything after that is a blur."
Although Keith spent nine months at Whitechapel Hospital, he battled back from his coma and thankfully his condition began to slowly improve.
I was forced to relearn even the most basic of life skills from scratch after my brain haemorrhage
"It was a very difficult time for my family, particularly as my brain injury caused me to be partially paralysed for a long time after the incident; but they stuck by me throughout everything, especially my mum, Wendy. When I managed to say 'Hello Mum' for the first time, it brought such a big smile to her face."
When Keith was finally strong enough to be discharged from hospital, he had to move back into his childhood home with his mother, who helped him with everything from washing to eating, along with other daily tasks he had once taken for granted.
It wasn't until 2007 that Keith finally sought help and began attending sessions at Headway East London, where he soon became an integral part of the group's kitchen project, working for all three supper clubs held at their centre in Hackney.
"I had to give up my job as an engineer following my brain injury, but with the help of my mother and Headway East London I have gradually rebuilt my life," said Keith.
"Before my brain injury I loved cooking, and my Headway group has helped me rekindle this passion.
"From not being able to hold a fork or eat independently in the early stages of my recovery, I can now plan, prepare and serve dinners to a variety of visitors from across East London, as well as supporting other members to do so."
In the past 16 months, Keith has also taken on a key organisational role in the project, which includes a Monday to Friday lunch club, feeding members of the centre as well as regular customers from local businesses.
"I'm still quite numb down my right side, and I still suffer with short and long-term memory problems as a result of my injury," said Keith. "But my first ever job was in a kitchen and I feel at home when I'm preparing food and clearing away the dishes - everything has its place."
Keith also helped raise an impressive £3,500 for the charity through his involvement with various fundraising projects, as well as supporting his mother at home and volunteering in the gardens at The Homerton Hospital in his spare time.
Today, Keith has become an excellent spokesperson for Headway East London and, in December, he became one of only three people from across the UK to be shortlisted for Achiever of the Year in the Headway Annual Awards ceremony.
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