The hidden disability…

Two women facing each other showing brain activity

Headway logoWhen I tell people I work for Headway – the brain injury association, the name doesn’t often immediately ring any bells. It’s actually a charity which works closely with brain injury survivors, their families and carers, and healthcare professionals, all with the aim of improving life after brain injury.

In fact, I find that most people who have heard of us have usually been affected by brain injury themselves.

So, what does it mean to have a brain injury?

Although a brain injury can have immediately obvious impacts, such as poor balance and sensory speech difficulties, it’s also often referred to as the ‘hidden disability’, meaning it’s not always obvious on first glance, but affects many aspects of your life. Under the surface there can be deep emotional effects, including anger, depression and mood swings and anxiety, alongside cognitive impacts such as memory loss and reduced concentration span.

Imagine waking up a different person

Olympic rowing champion and Headway Vice President, James Cracknell, experienced this following a cycling accident in 2010. Despite making an excellent recovery, both James and his family still feel the lasting, concealed effects of his brain injury. In a moving documentary on ITV4’s Sports Life Stories, James is asked about the one challenge he still wishes to overcome. He replies: “To hear Bev [his wife] say you’re back.”

Headway helps people to adapt to these unexpected changes following a brain injury. A freephone, nurse-led helpline, training programme and extensive range of publications are available to support brain injury survivors, along with their families and carers. We also support a network of over 110 local groups and branches, Acute Trauma support nurses in the West Midlands and North West and offer an Emergency Fund to assist with sudden financial difficulties which sometimes arise following a brain injury.

Behind the scenes in fundraising, it can be easy to forget what kind of difference you’re making.

Two women facing each other with brain activity showing in headsHowever, when you receive a call or an email from someone who has been helped by the services Headway provides, or from someone who has overcome their injury to achieve incredible things, to do something positive to support others in a similar situation, it really is amazing.

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Lucy Driver sustained a brain injury in a wakeboarding accident in 2012. She was knocked unconscious and has no memory of the accident or her stay in hospital. She had four skull fractures and internal bleeding. Yet a year to the day of her accident, she completed the 13.1 mile Great North Run in just over two hours, raising almost £6,000 for Headway in the process.

She said: “It is an honour to run the Great North Run for Headway… it’s the least I can do to say thank you, not only to Headway, but to all the people who helped save my head, and ultimately my life.”

Stories like Lucy’s are truly inspirational and while Headway may not be recognised to the same extent that other national charities are, our services are essential and truly appreciated by those who have benefited.

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to take on a fundraising challenge to support people like Lucy, For more details and to book, visit our website.

About Emily Suffield

I’m the Fundraising Officer for Headway – the brain injury association. As a charity, we have a range of fundraising challenges, such as the Great North Run or overseas treks and bike rides.