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Headway Exhibition: Neil

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Headway Exhibition: Neil

Headway Exhibition: Neil

Neil is an active member of all of his social groups, enjoys talking and always has an opinion

Following a traumatic brain injury there is the inevitability of loss that follows. The loss of perhaps one’s cognitive, physical and/or emotional functioning from that of what it used to be or what it could have been.

The process of adjustment is an individual journey. This exhibition shares the stories of five individuals with brain injuries and allows us to explore how not everything is lost after a brain injury and that life and character very much continue in the most individual and unique ways possible.

Neil - 'Kempy'

Neil is 52 and has suffered three strokes. At the age of 39, he was working as a transport manager and while sat at the wheel in traffic at work he had a stroke. This was in fact Neil’s second stroke, when assessed at the hospital he was told that he had previously had a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) earlier that year. After his second stroke he decided to move to Fuerteventura with his then girlfriend and his boxer dog.

He had spent a number of months abroad but had soon spent all of his money and felt it was time to return home to England to work again. He had organised his return but on the night before he flew back he was lying in bed with his girlfriend when he suffered a third stroke.

He was unable to talk to alert her and can recall attempting to get her attention by persistently tapping her. He later learned that he had suffered a more serious brainstem stroke – the third stroke in the space of one year.

The results of these strokes means Neil is unable to see out of his left eye can’t use his left arm and required surgery on his left foot to cut his muscle and gradually bring his foot into place so that he may sustain a flexed foot to support walking. He could not walk or eat for four months and remained in care of a hospital in Fuerteventura.

During this time Neil can remember being tube fed and pulling tubes out of his throat. In response to this the doctor handcuffed his functioning right arm to the hospital bed. Despite shared disbelief at the doctor’s actions Neil is grateful as he remains alive today. 

After four months he was able to fly home to Sunderland where he was then cared for at Sunderland General Hospital for six months.

Neil now walks with a walking stick and uses a wheelchair to access football matches. He is a supporter of Sunderland Football Club and has a season ticket however is hesitant to renew his ticket after their performance this year!

Prior to his strokes Neil used to “live on kebabs”. He has since joined his local Weight Watchers club which he attends each week and he has lost three stones. Neil has an active social life and is busy most days. Every Tuesday he attends a gym project at his local Wearside Headway group and then attends Hebburn Stroke Club on the afternoon.

On Thursdays he plays football in the morning and competed in a local walking football tournament in April 2017. He also takes part in a camera club once every month. Since his accident Neil has retained his natural capacity to manage groups of people and is active within a number of social groups for people with head injuries.

Neil does, however, struggle with his short term memory, word finding and remembering names. Neil called his cat “Kempy” after himself so that he would not forget his cat’s name. He describes how his word finding difficulties make him feel like he is cleverer in his head than he actually is.

His cognitive difficulties frustrate him and this causes him to swear a lot. He also laughs a lot when he is nervous. Despite this Neil is an active member of all of his social groups, enjoys talking and always has an opinion.

In February 2017 Neil was awarded an Entry Level Certificate in Skills for Sport and Active Leisure.


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