On 7 February 2004, Steven Lomas, 44 and from Salford, had been driving home from a shopping trip in Manchester when his car crashed into a tree. The impact of the collision left Steven fighting for his life with a traumatic brain injury that was to cause epilepsy, significant behavioural changes, and many other effects that ended his career.
With the continued support of Headway Stockport and South Manchester, Steven has slowly rebuilt his life and, this year, he was awarded a First Class (BSc Honours) degree in Professional Broadcast Techniques from the University of Salford. More than a decade on from his ordeal, Steven shares his journey to recovery below to raise awareness of the hidden effects of brain injury and signpost others affected to the support available.
"The impact of the collision resulted in a bleed in my brain, causing me to suffer an epileptic fit while trapped in the car," Steven recalled.
"The fire service had to saw the top off my car to reach me."
Although paramedics managed to rush Steven to North Manchester General Hospital, the accident left him with severe head injuries and a life-changing traumatic brain injury.
Five hours after arriving at the hospital, it became apparent that Steven required specialist neurological treatment and he was taken to Salford Royal Hospital where doctors placed him in a medically induced coma for six weeks.
"My family and friends were told to expect the worst," said Steven. "Doctors warned that, if I regained consciousness, there was no way of predicting what lasting effects my traumatic brain injury would cause.
"Even when I was well enough to return home from hospital, I struggled with daily tasks I had once taken for granted. My brain injury placed enormous pressure upon my daily routines and relationships, eventually forcing me to move into my mother's home for additional support.
"Physically, I suffered – and still suffer today – from an impaired sense of smell (anosmia) and lost hearing completely in my left ear. But the most difficult challenges I face as a result of my brain injury are much more subtle and hidden."
Before his brain injury, Steven had a career as a retail manager for ASDA, living in a semi-detached house in Ashton-under-Lyne where he was born.
Following the accident, however, Steven was eager to return to work but soon found that his brain injury caused him to suffer from severe fatigue and uncharacteristic emotional outbursts that resulted in customer complaints. Eventually, Steven took the difficult decision to resign and he began to struggle with depression.
"It was not until 2005 when my Occupational Psychologist and friend Suzanne Guest introduced me to Headway Stockport and South Manchester that I finally began to rebuild my life," Steven continued.
"With the support of the local charity, I began five years of education in September 2010, studying for four years at Manchester College before completing a one-year media course at the University of Salford, Media City Campus. I produced a film about the late television presenter Tony Wilson for my Foundation Degree in Music Production and was delighted when it scored more than 8,000 hits on YouTube in just 16 months."
In 2015, Steven, who now lives in Eccles with his wife Joanne and their dog Zena, decided to put his media skills to the test and turn the camera on himself to share his story and raise awareness of traumatic brain injury.
Filming for the project, called Re-cognition, took place at the Headway charity shop in Sale, where Steven now volunteers once a week, and at The Heaton's Centre, in Stockport, where the local Headway group's drop-in session is held fortnightly on a Wednesday.
Steven's hard work and determination finally paid off last summer as he received a First Class (BSc Honours) degree in Professional Broadcast Techniques.
"It only took one moment, one head injury, for my life's direction to be changed by brain injury," said Steven.
"Re-Cognition was motivated by a need to show people that there can be life after brain injury. The support I received from Headway Stockport and South Manchester has turned my life around and I'm a stronger person now.
"I'm now looking for work in the media sector so I can take this passion and creativity to the next level. Mainly, I just hope my film and volunteering will help to raise awareness of the incredibly important work the charity does to support people like me."
'I've been knocked down and got back up again'
The icing on the cake came in December when Steven was named national Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year at the Headway Awards ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel, in London.
Steven's nomination was made even more special as it was his Occupational Psychologist Suzanne Guest, from Wigan, who put him forward for the award after witnessing his exceptional progress over the course of eight years.
In his winning speech, Steven said: "Wow. I've been knocked down and got back up again!
"I am shocked and honoured to win such a prestigious national award. For the first couple of years after my brain injury I didn't even want to be around. If it wasn't for Headway, I would still be at home feeling alone and not wanting to go out. The local Headway team really brought me out of my shell.
"People look at me and think there is nothing wrong with me. It's not like losing a leg or an arm where people can clearly see you are disabled and make allowances. I have a scar on my arm from the car accident and a bolt on my head because I'm deaf in one ear, but I certainly don't look 'disabled'.
We need to break down the stigma of head injury and I am proud that my film has served to raise awareness of Headway by showing that people like me do need support if there is to be life after brain injury.
We've put together a playlist of Steven's videos - click here to watch now.
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