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Lewes ladies win national award

Fri 05 Dec 2014

A mother and daughter from Lewes who dedicated the past 20 years of their lives to caring for their son and brother respectively following his life-changing brain injury have won a national award.

Gwen and Natalie Milham, from Lewes, have been jointly crowned Carer of the Year at the Headway Annual Awards ceremony held at The Dorchester Hotel, in London, on Friday 5 December.

The awards ceremony, organised by Headway - the brain injury association, celebrates the inspirational achievements of survivors of brain injury and their carers in the face of adversity, as well as the outstanding contributions individuals have made to the charity.

Gwen and Natalie were presented with their award by double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, who is Vice President of the charity, in recognition of their devotion and enduring support of Nathan, who is Gwen's son and Natalie's brother.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: "Gwen and Natalie have shown incredible devotion to Nathan. They have, selflessly cast aside their own ambitions and lives to devote their energies to caring for him and giving him the best possible chance of a life after brain injury.

"The courage and unwavering support Gwen and Natalie have given to Nathan, battling through some extremely difficult times along the way, is outstanding. Even today, both women work tirelessly to put Nathan's needs before their own, and the improvements he has made - and continues to make - after his brain injury have largely been a result of Gwen and Natalie's enduring efforts.

"Together, Gwen and Natalie have helped Nathan rebuild a life after brain injury that is filled with love, laughter and fun. They are worthy winners of this award."

In July 1996, 17-year-old Nathan was on his way to meet Natalie when he was hit by a car and suffered a severe brain injury. The then 17-year-old was rushed to the Royal Free Hospital in London but, tragically, Nathan developed a brain aneurysm and spent almost a year in a coma. Life for the Milham family became a rollercoaster of emotions as they were repeatedly asked to consider turning off Nathan's life-support machine.

But Gwen never gave up hope that Nathan would eventually defy doctors predictions and improve. Thankfully, Nathan was eventually strong enough to return home, though Gwen soon became her son's primary carer, helping him with everything from washing to eating.

Meanwhile, Natalie's health also took a serious knock as she suffered from kidney failure. She may have died had her elder sister not stepped in and donated one of her own kidneys, saving Natalie's life.

In 2005, tragedy struck again as Dave suffered a brain injury of his own and, although Gwen's husband could still communicate, he became totally immobile. Like Nathan, he too was in sudden need of 24-hour care.

Gwen began juggling her time between her husband and son until Dave sadly passed away in 2009. Less than a year after Dave's death, Gwen received yet another piece of devastating news; she had breast cancer.

Determined to face this additional life challenge in her usual stoical manner, Gwen's only concern was for Nathan and, once again, the family united to confront this next crisis together.

Natalie took over the caring duties for her brother and, even though Gwen has thankfully made a full recovery, Natalie continues to share the load and cares for Nathan on a daily basis.


The Headway Annual Awards celebrate the exceptional efforts of survivors of brain injury and those caring for them. Other winners who joined Gwen and Natalie on stage at The Dorchester Hotel included Sarah Whitchurch, from Guernsey (Achiever of the Year), Terisha Burge, from Bath (Volunteer of the Year), and Bill and Stella Jackaman, from West Sussex (The Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award).

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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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