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Sahara Trek Triumph

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Sahara Trek Triumph

Sahara Trek Triumph

I am privileged to have met many individuals and families who are rebuilding their lives following brain injury.

An interview with #HeadwayHero Glen Whitehead

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Irwin Mitchell

I am an Associate Solicitor in the Serious Injury Team at the Sheffield Office of Irwin Mitchell. I am instructed by clients who have experienced life-changing and catastrophic injuries resulting from a wide range of circumstances. I also represent adults, children, and families who have sadly lost loved ones. Many of my clients have sustained traumatic brain injuries and benefit from the advice and support provided by Headway – the brain injury association.

Tell us about your Sahara trek and what inspired you to do it.

In 2019, I was chatting with one of my clients, who was struggling with several challenges during his rehabilitation journey following a brain injury.

He had decided to complete a sponsored walk, and it was fantastic to see his motivation and commitment to training, and later his elation when he completed the walk.

I was inspired to take on a challenge of my own and, after seeing the opportunity to trek for Headway, signed up for the Sahara Desert Trek in Morocco.

How did you prepare for such a challenge?

The trek was originally due to take place in November 2020, and I had set out a carefully constructed training plan from the point I signed up in late 2019. I could have never envisaged the events of 2020 and the travel restrictions that followed. The trek was postponed several times, with new dates set, but then later rescheduled. Eventually, we could confirm a date; the trek would go ahead in March 2023.

Maintaining my training and ensuring I was up to the task throughout the repeated cancellations was a particular challenge in itself. We were advised that we would be walking up to 10 hours per day and, therefore, we should spend plenty of time preparing a training plan and building up to completing long walks over consecutive days. An 18-20 mile walk became a regular feature of the weekend, and with the frequently extended dates, the commitment to spending the time training often meant other activities took a back seat.

I can remember buying a new pair of boots when I first signed up, with the intention of wearing them in over the ten months leading up to the walk. After spending a large part of the lockdown period putting my boots through their paces, by the time I set off to Morrocco, I was already on my third pair!

What were the most fun, challenging and memorable aspects of the trek?

We had so much fun on the trek. It was a great group, a diverse mix of ages and personalities, and we all got on so well from the outset. Members were walking for different reasons, some of which were hugely personal and very moving. Walking for so many hours each day offered a lot of time to chat with others in the group, and I loved hearing each individual’s story of how and why they were walking.

Not quite as much fun, but equally memorable, was the experience of battling through the high winds of the sandstorms, where any exposed skin was sandblasted, and ears, eyes, nose and mouth all quickly filled with sand if you dared to remove your headscarf.

The contrast when the storms stopped was remarkable. We would be buffeted by the howling winds one minute, and then within a short moment, the wind would drop, the noise disappear, and the whole landscape would be peaceful again. The sky would be blue, and the rolling dunes could be seen stretching into the distance for miles. It is incredible how the desert can change so dramatically within such a short space of time. It can be a savage place, but at the same time, truly beautiful.

Climbing the huge dunes, with feet sinking into the soft sand and the dry heat hitting the back of your mouth, was arduous, and yet the aches and pains melted away as we sat at the peak of the dune, with the sun on the horizon and a huge sense of achievement. Those are the memories which will stay with me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A massive thank you to all those who supported me. It was a very strange period in which to fundraise, and I am so grateful for the help provided by family and friends and also the superb support from my employer and work colleagues.

Camels in The Sahara at sunset

A huge thanks, too, to the Headway fundraising team, who were helpful and supportive all the way through. The circumstances of the Pandemic presented challenges for fundraising activities as well as the organisation of the trek itself. There were times when I wondered whether it would ever take place. However, the Headway team were always so understanding and always willing to work with me to ensure that the trek could go ahead, and I am so grateful for that.

Finally, why should others get involved with fundraising for Headway?

I am privileged to have met many individuals and families who are rebuilding their lives following brain injury. Their resilience and bravery is something which demonstrates how there is always the opportunity to bounce back from what can be devastating events. Headway provides essential services to those who need them at the time they need them most.

We all have busy lives, and long periods of time can often pass before something prompts you to take a moment to reflect. There are some fantastic fundraising activities out there from which you will create memories which last a lifetime. I hope that reading this short piece provides you with your moment and lights a spark in your imagination, leading you to your own fundraising adventure through which Headway can continue to support so many.

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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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