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Sussex carer's unwavering dedication to husband sees her scoop national award Main Image

Sussex carer's unwavering dedication to husband sees her scoop national award

Fri 08 Dec 2023

A Sussex woman who has spent over twenty years caring for her husband has won a national carers award from UK charity Headway – the brain injury association.

Each year, Headway holds a glittering awards ceremony at the Landmark London hotel, celebrating the achievements and contributions of people with brain injuries and those who support them.

In 2002, Sally Hylands from Eastbourne returned from a gathering with her husband and childhood sweetheart Clifford. He hadn't been his usual outgoing self that evening, and in the early hours, he suffered a heart attack and collapsed in front of Sally.

Despite quick intervention from Sally and the paramedics, it took 20 minutes before Clifford began to breathe again, resulting in anoxic brain damage and Sally said the couple's lives "changed overnight".

Clifford's prognosis was bleak, and he spent four weeks in a coma. Sally, 68, said: "I sat at his bedside begging him to pull through, vowing I would take anything back as long as he didn't die."

Miraculously, Clifford regained consciousness, and Sally has been his dedicated carer ever since, offering him unwavering love and support.

Sally has now received Headway – the brain injury association's Carer of the Year Award - sponsored by Hugh James. It was presented by Olympic gold medallist and Headway Vice President James Cracknell at the Landmark London hotel.

When asked how it feels to win, Sally said: "I am in shock. I am so happy. It's just been such a long journey, and this is an amazing boost; it means everything."

Sally, Clifford and their loved ones have faced a long and immensely challenging journey since Clifford sustained his brain injury.

In the aftermath, Clifford had very little speech, poor eyesight, lack of cognitive understanding and virtually no mobility. This led to him spending months in hospital, where Sally and Clifford's sister would take turns sleeping in the recliner chair while visiting. Clifford also spent ten months in a specialist residential neurorehabilitation centre in Dorking.

Throughout everything, Sally has remained by his side, helping him re-learn to eat and seeing that he could proudly walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day in 2017.

Sally was nominated for Headway's Carer of the Year Award by Michele Fleming on behalf of everyone at Headway Sussex. She said:

"Sally has been an active member of the HSX Eastbourne Support Group since she joined in 2002 and has given talks about her and Clifford's journey to help others.

"Talking in public is nerve-wracking for Sally, who finds it quite intimidating, but she is always willing to do this as she feels her story is a powerful way to educate others.

"She deserves this award in recognition of the care she gives Clifford and her significant contribution to supporting other families living with the effects of brain injuries.

"Sally has become strong and has never sought recognition, caring for Clifford and holding the family together. She supports Clifford through the frustrations and challenges that result from his injury, and she celebrates with him all that he achieves despite his injury."

Luke Griggs, Chief Executive of Headway – the brain injury association, said:

"Sally's commitment to caring for Clifford through such difficult circumstances is inspiring and profoundly moving.

"Despite her exceptionally busy life caring for him, Sally has somehow found time to help others rebuild their lives after brain injury, including those at Headway Sussex.

"She is a perfect example of selflessness and of the invaluable contribution carers make to the lives of people living with brain injuries.”

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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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