In March 1991, dental hygienist Terisha Burge was treating a patient at the surgery where she worked in Bath when she became ill with a severe headache. The pain became so extreme she sought medical assistance and, as her condition quickly worsened, it soon became apparent that a vessel had burst causing her to suffer a major brain haemorrhage. The mother-of-two was left with a brain injury that changed her and her family's lives in an instant.
"The pain was extreme," recalled Terisha, 66 and from Bath. "I was initially rushed to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol where I remained in intensive care for two weeks, before being transferred to the Royal United Hospital in Bath for more than a month.
"After travelling back to Bristol for an operation to clip the vessel, I was finally allowed to return home so that I could begin to rebuild my life.
"However, it wasn't as easy as immediately resuming life as normal. Even after I was discharged from hospital, I struggled to speak and it took 18 months for the vision to return in my left eye. In addition, I could not walk easily without the help of my husband, Clive, who stayed by my side and has been a vital support to me throughout what turned out to be a long rehabilitation process.
I'm not going to pretend it has been an easy road to recovery, but I fought to regain control of life.
"Today, I can speak, walk and see clearly once again."
Nonetheless, the couple were disappointed to find that, at the time of Terisha's haemorrhage, little advice and support was available for people affected by brain injury.
In October 1991, I saw an advert in the Bath Chronicle for a meeting to discuss the setting up of a new Bath-based branch of Headway.
With the vision and support of Dr Anthony Clarke, former Medical Director of Mineral Water Hospital, in Bath, Terisha and Clive put their understanding of brain injury to good use and helped create Headway Bath and District. Little did the couple know at this early stage that they would go on to raise an extraordinary £65,000 for the local charity.
"I've been on the fundraising committee for Headway Bath and District since the group's conception," said Terisha. "I began to recruit my family and friends to support the cause, including my sister Janet, and even members of the Larkhall Football Club, with which Clive and I have been affiliated for many years.
"The funds we raised were initially used to run the Headway group's monthly meetings but, as time went on, I developed a hunger to provide better rehabilitation activities for the support group's members.
"After taking a break from fundraising, I took up the mantle once again and began pushing to improve the services on offer, with dreams of one day creating a more permanent day centre that would serve as a stable base for the Headway group's members."
In 2002, Terisha's hard-work paid off as the group, which started in the hospital, was now in a position to expand its services and launch a day centre that now runs two days a week for its ever-growing number of members.
And Terisha's support for the charity still shows no sign of abating. She has contributed to the charity's fundraising events for 22 years and she still helps to organise everything from market stalls to Christmas fairs, even running auctions and race nights to raise vital funds for Headway.
"For the past eight years, I've been best known for rallying a team of volunteer runners to represent Headway Bath and District in the Bath Half-Marathon.
"Last year, my two sons, Mark and Steven, were among the runners, as well as my wonderful daughter-in-law, Kelly, who helped us to raise more than £11,000 from last year's half-marathon alone.
"It's amazing how many people do not know what support is available for brain injury survivors . Today, the Headway Bath and District provides information and education, family support, respite care, outreach and specialist group treatments.
"Raising awareness of brain injury and the work Headway does is of the utmost importance to me.
I suppose my commitment to Headway is just my way of saying 'thanks' for getting me this far and for helping other people affected by the devastating consequences of brain injury who are not as fortunate as I have been.
In December, Terisha's hard work gained national recognition when she was awarded the title of Volunteer of the Year at the Headway Annual Awards ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London.
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