Lynne O'Grady regularly has strangers walk over and greet her like they have known her for years.
“They will stride up and fling their arms around me. I try and not look completely bemused, which at times can be rather hard. But I do my best to smile and remain polite. I ask some general questions and give it some time. Hopefully it then clicks,” recalls Lynne.
But these people aren’t strangers, Lynne just can’t recognise them.
Her memory was deeply affected after she suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2017 and now she can really struggle to remember people and place faces.
She said: “A few months after my brain injury a lovely looking woman approached me at a party, she was obviously very pleased to see me.
“But I had no idea who she was. It wasn’t until she told me she was my friend’s sister that it clicked. Apparently she had visited me twice whilst I was in hospital.”
Lynne, 58, said she always looks into people’s eyes to work out if she really knows them.
She said: “It sounds silly but if I truly know someone, and have some sort of meaningful relationship with them rather than just an acquaintance, then I can tell in the eyes.
“They light up, there is a true connection and I can tell they are so pleased to see me looking well again.”
It has been a very tough period for Lynne following her brain injury which happened at her home in Birmingham.
She said: “I was washing my hair in the shower when I suffered a ruptured aneurysm. The headache was so bad. I could hardly open my eyes or speak due to the pain but I managed to call for an ambulance – I thought I was dying.”
Lynne underwent lifesaving surgery which involved drilling a burr hole into her skull to release the pressure before surgeons inserted a drain and then a WEB (woven endobridge) device to prevent further bleeding.
She would spend nearly a month in hospital as she set about learning how to walk and talk again.
She said: “Once I could speak, I was a fantastic confabulator, telling everyone all sorts of stories about what a great day I had and where I had been.
“I told people that I had been out to the theatre, out for meals and drinking the local pubs dry. I even reported a visit from my Dad who had died seven years previously.
I swore my neurosurgeon was George Clooney some days or Errol Brown from Hot Chocolate on others.
“I even told my visitors a male nurse had given me a bed bath and he had a second job as a performer in the Dream Boys act.
"I only know all of these stories as my family and friends have told me since and also kept a journal for me which I read several months later."
Following a month of rehabilitation, Lynne was able to return to her home and benefitted greatly from the support of her ex-husband and her local Headway Group.
She said: “I was sleeping 18 hours a day and luckily my ex-husband Kevin was staying at my house looking after my pets and me for the first week.
“He was a star and went above and beyond. My brain injury actually brought us closer together and this year I have been able to reciprocate his kindness as he too has been unwell.
“Headway Birmingham and Solihull provided me with a lovely case worker who encouraged me with brain training, coping strategies and confidence building.
“I also attended the course on an introduction to your brain injury which was great, as were the counselling sessions they provided. They were all marvellous as once my ex-husband went home I felt very much alone despite having great support from friends and family ”
Lynne’s brain injury has left her with a number of problems, the main ones being short term memory issues and light sensitivity.
But she remains positive about the future and has found new ways to remain active.
She said: “Life is good at the moment. I walk five miles a day and lead a walking group once a week – which is very satisfying.
“I also make sure to socialise with my friends and family, keeping in touch is very important.
“I know I’m lucky to be here and I just work hard to keep on, keeping on and don't give in to it. I try to make the most of every day, if I’m able to. I just feel grateful to be alive.”
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