Raj Gataora was 21 years old and working in a pub to make money to help fund himself through university.
One night, at around 11.30pm, Raj’s life changed completely. He was driving home from a shift through terrible weather conditions when a deer ran in front of his car, causing him to swerve and crash.
After the crash, Raj’s parents were told that he had sustained a brain injury.
“Life has been very challenging to be honest with you. Doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t breathe by myself. But look at me now – I’m doing all those things.”
However, Raj was angry and initially found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the huge changes he now faced.
“Firstly, I was angry with any old Dick or Harry. And I overcame it by just ignoring the situation and just getting on with it. That is all you can do.
“I said to myself, uh-uh. I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life, waking up doing nothing with my life. So I decided to go back to education and prove everyone wrong.
“I knew it would be a lot of work and it was a lot of work. But I got through it and eventually I got into Nottingham Trent University to do Criminology.
“Graduation was epic! When I went up to collect my degree my name was called out… My support worker helped me, and I walked over and received my degree.
“The whole audience in the concert hall were clapping until I sat down. It was such a fantastic feeling – really amazing for me.”
Raj knows how lucky he was to be to be supported and spurred on in all his efforts by his family.
“Luckily for me I have an extremely strong family which I so appreciated – and I love them with all my heart. All of us just got on with life – that is all you can do.”
In the years immediately after his brain injury, Raj found it difficult to meet friends and enjoy activities in the way that he used to. However, he started going along to Headway Nottingham, where he gained the confidence to meet new people and talk with others who had also sustained life-changing brain injuries.
Through Headway, he met people on the same wavelength who he describes as like a family to him. Raj now leads a full life, and enjoys rock climbing, going to the gym and socialising with friends over a coffee.
“I’ve been coming to Headway for about two to three years, I believe. We’re like a family and in that family we’re all like-minded people.
“I just feel comfortable when I’m here, and if you’re scared or petrified of going and meeting new people – trust me, I was. But now, fear, pah. No fear at all and it was all worth it.”
Raj’s attitude has helped him to make amazing progress and find enjoyment and fulfilment in new activities and new friends.
“Don’t sulk about it, just get on with it. What’s happened has happened – you can’t turn back time. That is my motto.
Then you can say to the people who doubted you – ‘I told you so!'
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