On April 1, 2021, Stephen Evans from Longlevens went for a 3k run as usual and then went to work. However, despite previously feeling fine, he suddenly began to feel unwell.
He said: "I lost the ability to respond in a conversation and became hot and confused. The site occupational team immediately assessed me. 999 was called, and following initial tests, I was 'blue-lighted' into the A&E.
“After about 20 minutes, I was able to make some discussion, but I remained confused.
"Following a number of scans, I was diagnosed with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) bleed within my brain's temporal left side lobe.
"To reduce the risk of further haemorrhages, I had surgery and underwent a craniotomy procedure to remove the AVM on April 21 in Southmead Hospital, Bristol.
Initial recovery for the first few weeks was challenging with my communication and loss of words.
During this time, Stephen relied heavily on the internet to help him look up the words he wanted to say or to help him recognise famous faces on TV. It was an upsetting time, and Stephen wondered how much of his formally active life he would regain.
After his brain surgery, Stephen returned home within the week to rest and recover, but this was short-lived as his wound, unfortunately, became infected.
"I was later diagnosed with an infection around the craniotomy area, which had spread down into the skull bone, and I was operated on with washout and bone flap removal," he recalled.
Fortunately, Stephen recovered well from the wound infection and later underwent a cranioplasty surgery in August 2021, where surgeons inserted a metal plate into his skull.
Later that year, he began to return to a more active lifestyle and once again embraced his passion for running.
Stephen, now 49, said: "Running allows me to be free of my thoughts and feel well as I continue my recovery.”
“However, I have mild aphasia (language impairment) with intermittent wording at times, which is impacted when I become tired, so my cognitive fatigue needs to be managed."
He said that his brain injury has changed his personality. Although he's still the same person, Stephen can experience emotional difficulties such as mood swings, anxiety and, at times, a lack of motivation. He also prefers to spend more time alone than he did previously.
However, Stephen said he tries to have a positive mental attitude and is looking forward to finally participating in the London Marathon in April - especially as he had to drop out last year following a seizure.
Besides challenging himself physically and mentally, Stephen is using his marathon run to help others. He is raising sponsorship money to support Headway – the brain injury association. The national charity works to improve life after brain injury by providing vital support, advocacy, and information services to brain injuries survivors, their loved ones and to professionals.
People can sustain brain injuries in many ways, including strokes, brain tumours, or following an accident or assault.
Stephen has set himself a fundraising target of £1,800 but would love to raise even more to help people understand what life is like for people affected by brain injuries.
"I have read a lot online and in books, but it's difficult to explain to many people without their own experiences," he said. "A broken leg or arm is visible to everyone, head injuries are very often hidden, and we need to expand the knowledge.
The positive mental attitude that I have, along with support through sponsorship, means I am determined to help promote Headway and complete this year's London Marathon!
To support Stephen's fundraiser for Headway, visit his Just Giving page.
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