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Brain Injury And Covid: Jean Parker

Jean Parker

Headway Wirral have done a great job of bringing people together and making us feel less alone.

Brain injury survivor and mum-of-three Jean Parker says the support of her local Headway group in Wirral has played a crucial role in battling loneliness and isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In 2012, Jean experienced a subarachnoid haemorrhage which left her with short-term memory problems, fatigue and dyspraxia.

She said: “Me and my husband John were just packing up our bags after spending a lovely weekend away in Wales when I got a pain in my head and collapsed.

“I was taken to hospital but my condition was deteriorating so I was transferred to somewhere more specialist. That’s when they found out I had hydrocephalus too, fluid on the brain.”

Jean underwent complex surgery to drain the fluid and also had six coils fitted to prevent any further rupturing or growth.

After her injury, Jean, now 68, found great support in Headway Wirral’s drop-in service.

She said:

At Headway you can be yourself. All the barriers you face disappear and you can just enjoy being around people who truly understand what it’s like to live with a brain injury.

Despite having to close the doors to its day centre because of COVID-19, Headway Wirral has continued to support brain injury survivors like Jean through an extensive ring around service, welfare check-ins and group Zoom calls.

“It’s been great to know that Headway Wirral is still there for us at this time. It’s just nice to hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone,” she said.

Jean initially joined the group Zoom calls, but the effects of her injury made it too much of a challenge.

She said: “I couldn’t cope with listening to and seeing so many people at the same time, it just overloaded my brain. I couldn’t follow a simple conversation at times.

I’d spent 30 minutes on the call, and then need an hour and 30 minutes to recover from it.

Headway Wirral were quick to put a solution in place so that Jean could still access the support she needed.

She said: “They put on a specialist group for me and just a few other people, it was much quieter and easier to keep up with things. It has meant that I don’t have to miss out on the social aspect of things.

“The group has certainly made me feel less isolated. One of the things I miss the most about going to Headway Wirral is the peer support you get. Everyone is in the same boat and you can share what you’re going through with people who understand. Thankfully, the Zoom calls have replicated this.”

Many of the specialist rehabilitation and support services provided by Headway Wirral that people like Jean rely on are commissioned by the local authority.

But following the outbreak of the pandemic, only 4% of Directors of Adult Social Care from councils across England are confident that their budgets in 2020/21 are sufficient to meet statutory duties.

Talking about why Headway Wirral is so important to her, Jean said: “Having a brain injury can make you feel isolated at the best of times, never mind when you’re in lockdown. Headway Wirral have done a great job of bringing people together and making us feel less alone.”

Jean also says that her family have been a huge support during lockdown.

“My husband has been fantastic,” she said. “Initially he did all the shopping as I was too anxious to go out and the one-way system in supermarkets made it difficult for me.

“My children have been great too. They set up WhatsApp on my phone which has been an absolute lifesaver. It means I get to see my grandchildren and speak to them, which is something I was really missing.”

Moving forwards, Jean plans to continue to take part in the Zoom calls with Headway Wirral and is looking forward to seeing her friends again once the day centre reopens.

 

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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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