53-year-old Keith, from London, was just six weeks old when he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and was fitted with a venticuloperitoneal (VP) shunt.
Sadly, due to complications, Keith’s shunt has had to be replaced four times during the course of his life, most recently in May 2019.
Hydrocephalus has led to various hospital admissions and surgeries but Keith remains ever-positive, attributing his light-hearted mood to his love of writing.
Speaking about his condition Keith said: “I was brought up to try to make my condition play as little a part in my life as possible. Good luck has helped with this, although a life of contact sport, world travel, and being kept in line by the best partner anyone could wish for, means I only think about my shunt and hydrocephalus when common sense suggests I have to.
“Since my surgery, my memory - which has never been great - has been very poor indeed and this has been a source of great frustration, together with fatigue and wound issues.
The writing I do is an opportunity to maintain the more intact elements of my communication skills and demonstrate my belief in positivity as a weapon against the issues that might hold me back.
Keith admits to finding telephone and face-to-face conversations a challenge and sees writing as an opportunity to engage with people.
“To many, being able to produce lengthy emails and a growing mountain of poems might seem at odds with someone who shuns the telephone, unless it is my partner or family,” Keith said.
“My answer to this is simple. You can re-read an e-mail before pressing send, to see if there’s a chance the recipient can make sense of it. Phone and face to face conversations are not as forgiving.”
Keith’s poems have proved popular on Headway’s HealthUnlocked forum, gaining many positive reviews from other brain injury survivors.
Keith said: “Through the writing, I have been put into contact with people whose situations keep my relatively minor difficulties into perspective. I think this is the most beneficial aspect for me, as it reminds me that I am fortunate and that I have a great deal to be thankful for.
The fact that others have been positive about it has been very welcome, but so too when people have taken the time to say they can empathise with some of it... or simply have an inward chuckle.
“A great deal of what people have to deal with is, by nature, unavoidably serious. What I do is almost entirely not. That’s just my way. Never to belittle or offend, but just to highlight that daft old me does it his way and that others might want to do things their way too.”
Just now I got to thinking,
As I came in from the rain,
About the crazy, mixed up place,
That's called the 'human brain'.
It has its speedy highways,
And a warehouse for your stuff,
With rivers on the outskirts,
That, for me, don't flow enough.
The brain looks like a walnut,
With its outside hard as hell,
But nuts can't make you move and talk,
Beneath their wrinkled shell.
You find a rotten walnut?
Then just bin it, on its way,
Trickier for brains, of course,
In each and every way.
Our brains, they need their TLC,
And time and space to heal,
Far trickier to put things right,
Than your next walnut meal.
You'll never lose a walnut ,
Like your brain in puzzled mist,
But if you do, go shopping,
With 'More Nuts Please' on your list.
More to life than walnuts?
It's quite possible that's true,
But comfort yours inside your head
In ways that work for you.
Everyone is different,
That's a good thing and so true,
Just like brains and walnuts,
I'm unique and so are you.
There's a broom
In my room
Did I clean the floor?
Prop open the door?
Did a witch drop by?
If so, then why?
There's a note
That I wrote,
Kept in my shoe
List of things to do.
Did I finish that task?
Not sure, I'll ask.
There's some socks,
In a box
And cake to eat.
Are they for my feet?
Cake in the drawer ?
Chilled socks, for sure.
A call to my phone,
Whilst sitting alone,
A follow up text ?
What chaos is next?
Confused for a while,
At least I can smile !
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