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Brain injury and Covid...

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Brain injury and Covid: Tom Harris

Tom Harris

I fear for my future if I lose Headway’s support.

In 2013, Tom Harris* experienced a stroke which left him battling severe and complex physical side effects. He had completely lost the ability to move his left arm and had difficulty walking.

Here, he shares his story of part of Headway’s #BrainInjuryAndCovid campaign.

70-year old Tom was just about to begin a course of Botox treatment in his arm to help improve his condition when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. His ability to walk was also deteriorating and he had plans to get his own mobility scooter, something he says would have greatly improved his independence.

Sadly, Tom hasn’t been able to access either of these during lockdown.

He said: “The Botox and mobility scooter would both have really helped with my confidence and independence. I’d have been able to go out and do things by myself without having to rely on other people.”

Headway’s survey into the impact of lockdown on brain injury survivors and their families found that like Tom, 42% of respondents felt that their rehabilitation has been negatively impacted by lockdown, rising to 57% among brain injury survivors who sustained their injury within the last two years.

But thankfully, Tom’s local Headway group in Devon has been there to support him through these tough times, just as they have done for the past five years.

Tom said: “Headway has been a crucial part of my recovery, they helped me to get back on my feet.

After my brain injury I felt very depressed and low, but Headway Devon was always there for me no matter what, I could talk to people who understood.

"The second I walked through the door things started to look up for me."

Ever since joining Headway Devon five years ago, Tom hasn’t missed a single session at the day centre. So understandably, when the charity’s face-to-face services were forced to shut down because of lockdown, Tom feared how he’d cope.

He said: “Once the lockdown started, I began to struggle and my mental health took a hit. I didn’t realise how integral Headway was to my wellbeing until I wasn’t able to visit. I had a good routine in place and it was taken away so quickly.”

But Headway Devon were quick to step in and ensure that brain injury survivors like Tom still had access to their support. The Headway group is now offering tailored services such as telephone welfare calls, shopping for food, video calls and keep fit classes. 

Services such as these run by Headway Devon are commissioned by the local authority. However, such authorities are under increasing financial pressure and face an uncertain future.

Tom said: “The digital support services offered by Headway Devon have been a lifesaver at this difficult time, but they can’t replace face-to-face services in the long-term. Headway needs to be around in the future to continue helping people like me.

It’s simple: without that help, I wouldn’t be here now. For me, it has been the difference between life and death. I fear for my future if I lose Headway’s support.

 

*name changed for anonymity

 

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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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