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Rebecca Grant

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Rebecca Grant

Rebecca Grant

There's light at the end of the tunnel

One of the biggest challenges brain injury survivors face when returning to work is a lack of understanding from their employers. But Rebecca Grant says her employer has worked with her brain injury, not against it, to help her hold down a full-time job in its IT department.

The 28-year-old first started working for Bristol City Council as part of an apprenticeship. Although she enjoyed her apprenticeship, Rebecca found herself under immense stress.

She was trying to complete her college work in the evenings and hold down a job, while learning to drive and dealing with her brain injury. But her employers were supportive throughout.

"When I get angry I get verbal diarrhoea," she said. "I've got a manager sat next to me and they say 'what's wrong, can we help? You can have today off if you want.'

"If I get too tired, things get too much or it gets too stressful I'll go to my manager and they'll look at my workload.

"They're very understanding and helpful.

They work with my brain injury, not against it."

After completing her two apprenticeships, Rebecca had to reapply to continue her role but in this instance, working full-time. Although she had held the post as an apprentice for four years, there was no guarantee the job was hers.

She said: "They said they will give the job to me, but here are some points for future reference.

"They knew I could do it and they were pleased with how I settled in.

"It feels really good. I'm enjoying my job but there are stressful days."

Rebecca has battled for more than a decade to reach this point in her life. She sustained her brain injury at just 13-years-old when she was involved in a road traffic collision. She spent two months in hospital and suffered numerous complications, such as coming out of her coma too quickly and developing pneumonia.

When she did return home she received intensive speech therapy and had to be introduced back into school lessons very gradually.

Rebecca wasn't fully able to start back at school until year 11, a year after her peers had started preparing for their GCSEs.

"They didn't really have much hope in me," she said. "They just wrote me off.

"At the time I didn't really understand because I was dealing with so much. I didn't know I had a head injury, I didn't accept it."

Rebecca only passed one GCSE, achieving a B grade in art. But things improved when she started college and received one-to-one support.

She said: "If I couldn't take any more I would give my pen and paper to my support worker who would carry on where I left off. I could have a sleep on the desk."

Rebecca spent seven years studying at college and excelled gaining six qualifications.

After a short stint working for a charity, she spent four years undertaking apprenticeships with Bristol City Council, and she hasn't looked back.

As well as receiving support from her employers, Rebecca has been going to Headway Bristol's social group for young adults for three years.

She said: "We do different things like going to the kite festival. We've been to the cinema, we go bowling, we go for drinks.

"I've made some friends there."

She also attends the group's brain injury cafe, where she can meet other survivors with similar experiences.

After seeing how much Rebecca had achieved following her brain injury, Headway Bristol asked her to give a speech at their Annual General Meeting about her story.

She stood up in front of a room full of 50 people and shared her daily struggles and achievements.

She said: "I feel very proud of myself. Everybody clapped. Some people came up to me and said I did a very good job.

Since her brain injury, Rebecca's self-esteem has grown immensely.

In September 2016 she went on her first holiday abroad to Belfast. She enjoyed it so much she has gone back again this June. But travelling alone with a brain injury does come with its difficulties.

"I was extremely nervous even up until the morning I flew," she said. "I was really paranoid I was going to forget something, miss the bus or miss the plane.

"I kept saying 'you've done it before, it's fine.' Then I would think, what if it's not!"

Rebecca has come a long way since her brain injury and she puts it down to her determined attitude.

She said: "I would tell other brain injury survivors 'don't give up, no matter what.'

"I've had some really low moments but I've always found something to carry on with and strive towards.

"I always look for the positives in every situation, no matter how small."

Rebecca says her employer's understanding of her brain injury has helped her succeed in the work place.

"They're really understanding. They understand why I forget things and why I get frustrated, tired and angry.

I would tell any other employers not to judge a book by its cover. Brain injury survivors have a lot of potential.

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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