Welcome to My World - Dave

We're marking Action for Brain Injury Week (28th Sept - 4th Oct 2020) with a member-led campaign to raise awareness! Each day, we'll be introducing you to a different person's story - inviting you into their world and how they experience it after brain injury. First up, Headway Day Service member Dave.....

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54-year-old Dave was a chauffeur for the best part of 20 years, driving the likes of Ringo Star and The Backstreet Boys across London. After deciding on a career change, he retrained as a lifeguard, teaching young children to swim.

Just 3 months into this new job, Dave went to the doctors with what he thought was the flu. Later that day he suffered a seizure and was rushed to hospital, with what was later diagnosed as encephalitis, a viral inflammation of the brain.

“I don’t remember anything from that first week in hospital and vaguely remember the next five weeks. But I came out of hospital a different person.”

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Dave's artwork

Three years after being discharged from hospital, Dave spent five months in inpatient behavioural rehabilitation at Edgware, a hospital he’d visited in his youth, with broken bones and appendicitis. And a few years later spent another four months at The Lishman Unit in South London. As a result of his injury, Dave now lives with a range of "hidden" cognitive effects which impact things like his memory, planning and concentration:

“Physically, I’m pretty much okay, other than the things a 54-year-old should have. There is a sense of loss, everybody wants to try and get back to the same person that they were and do the same things they used to. But, personally, I have embraced the new me. It’s taken me on a little journey and I’m still thoroughly enjoying learning.

I understand my limits and my limitations and when I do things that are outside of those limitations, I understand that you know that’s a big deal for me. Going shopping and coming home with the bag, the receipts and the change, that’s quite a big deal! It’s the little things that I find rewarding these days.”

Unable to return to work, Dave first came to Headway East London in 2015, attending our Day Service on a Tuesday and Thursday.

“I automatically felt part of a community that I’d been missing and lacking in my life; my ‘acquired brain injury life’. I felt so comfortable to be around people who have a shared experience. We all have different brain injuries, different types of traumas, but we can all relate to each other and share our experiences.”

Over the last 5 years at Headway, Dave has embraced a whole new creative side that he never knew he had. More often than not, you’ll find Dave in the Headway kitchen, helping devise and cook lunch for hundreds of hungry mouths. Undeterred by that weekly challenge, Dave is also part of the team that work at our Headway Eats supper clubs, producing 3 courses for 50 members of the paying public.

“I never thought I’d be cooking twice a week for 50 plus people. Helping to cook, that’s one of the beautiful things about the Headway kitchen, you’re never alone, there’s always someone to help you out, a member of staff or volunteer. But there’s also the lovely experience of cooking with fellow members and feeling like you’re part of a team, we don’t really get that in the world, we don’t have a workplace where we’re part of a team, but Headway provides that.”

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Dave at Headway Eats

Since 2019 Dave has also been accessing our Community Support Worker Service 8 hours a week. Our Support Workers provide one-to-one support for our members, helping them gain more independence; be that through practical support with daily tasks or venturing out in the community and trying new activities. They also provide much needed respite and support for the families and carers of survivors.

“The Headway support team are fantastic. To say they’re helpful in my life would be an understatement, they are becoming part of the glue that holds the fabric of my family and myself together."

"I struggle with day to day life and my wife, as my carer and mother to an 8-year-old, is the person in the house who deals with everything. With the help of my two support workers, I’ve managed to take a little bit of the strain off. I feel quite proud of myself after I’ve done a task that’s been given to me by my wife to follow through.”

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Dave's artwork

Headway’s support has continued during the Coronavirus pandemic and Dave has kept busy, taking part in our Creative Writing groups, Cook-a-long Zooms and Open Studio art sessions, amongst other daily activities.

“Lockdown has been a very strange time for everybody, I’m sure, but over the period I have felt so supported by Headway East London. To be able to see (on zoom) and speak to people from the brain injury community, (cause that’s what is, it’s not just people in a Day Centre, it’s a community of people) it just puts a smile on your face.

It’s so lovely to support other people. Headway gives you that opportunity, to feel like you’re giving back a little bit. Whether it be making a cup of tea for someone or helping them move something - making their life easier. That’s been a big loss in lockdown.”

Dave, with the help of his Community Support Worker, has been able to fill that gap of giving back and supporting others and during the pandemic has begun volunteering at a local food bank once a week.

“It’s hard work, but I have my lanyard explaining my brain injury to everyone, so they kind of know that I might stand around for a little bit, looking lost until someone tells me what to do. I work much better under instruction now, not initiating things myself. I really enjoy it, it has been hugely rewarding."

"The support that Headway gives to my family is immeasurable. They are very much part of the family now. Headway has made such a difference to my world, my wife’s world and my son’s world. There is an openness, there is no embarrassment in brain injury.”

Dave kindly told his story as part of Headway's member-led campaign "Welcome To My World" for ABI Week 2020.

MORE: You can listen to Dave share his favourite songs on our audio series Canal Side Discs.