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Fiona Grant-MacDonald

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Fiona Grant-MacDonald

Fiona Grant-MacDonald

It is my goal to help and do as much to support people as possible
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One fateful evening two years ago, 36-year-old Fiona Grant-Macdonald was getting ready for bed as usual at her home in East Lothian when she suffered a brain haemorrhage that left her with a devastating brain injury.

"It all happened so quickly and completely out of the blue," recalled Fiona. "My dad had been seriously ill at the time of the incident, and I had been dashing back and forward to the hospital where he was staying in Dundee.

"My blood pressure had been quite high because I was under a lot of stress, but other than that my health was fine and there were no symptoms or warning signs that suggested something as a serious as a brain haemorrhage was about to occur.

"The night of the incident, my partner found me lying in bed unconscious and called for an ambulance. I briefly regained consciousness but found that I had lost my vision and was suffering from an excruciating headache."

Fiona was rushed to Western General Hospital in Edinburgh for emergency treatment and her family were told she had a 50/50 chance of surviving the ordeal.

Thankfully, the doctors were quick to identify Fiona's severe headache as a brain haemorrhage and they delivered life-saving treatment, though she was left with a severe brain injury.

"My doctors were fantastic," Fiona recalled. "What none of us realised was how much of an impact my acquired brain injury would have upon my everyday life.

"I consider myself extremely lucky to be here today, though it was difficult going from being a fit women who loved cycling to someone facing a long and uphill battle to recovery."

It wasn't until 10 months after Fiona had been discharged from hospital that she was able to return full-time after a long phased return to her job as a Physics Technician and hockey coach at Stewart's Melville College, in Edinburgh.

Although Fiona's brain injury still impacts upon her daily activities, she has finally managed to regain control of her life with the continued support of Headway East Lothian.

"I feel fortunate that my brain injury hasn't left me with any obvious physical consequences," said Fiona, who is now a member of Headway East Lothian.

"However, my memory has been massively affected as a result of the injury and the headaches I suffered in the early stages of my recovery are still really painful even today, meaning I have to take painkillers on a daily basis."

Since joining Headway East Lothian, the friendship Fiona has developed with Headway volunteer, Claire Dunn, has given her the determination to give something back to the charity that helped her rebuild her life.

With Claire's support, Fiona has now begun training for a 70-mile Three Peaks cycling event the duo organised to raise funds for Headway East Lothian.

Gearing up for the challenge shows just how far Fiona has come since a leisurely one-mile bike ride left her lying exhausted on the pavement.

I've had to learn to pace myself

"In the early days of recovery the fatigue as a result of my brain injury was incredible," Fiona explained. "Before my haemorrhage I was very active, and I've had to learn to pace myself and reign myself in a lot when taking on physical challenges.

"Members of Headway East Lothian can get quite depressed by the long-term challenges they face after their brain injuries. Our Three Peaks event is about participation, and I'm hoping our challenge will motivate people to join in or help out at the food stations along the way."

And this is not the first time the duo have hit the gym to support the Headway group.

Last year, Fiona and Claire completed a 50-mile cycle ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh, collectively raising £600 for Headway East Lothian.

"The support I have received from the charity has been invaluable," said Fiona.

"The group has provided me with a chance to meet with other people who are experiencing similar issues as a result of their own brain injuries.

Some people have been left with much more severe problems than I am facing, and so it is my goal to help and do as much to support them as possible.

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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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