Below, we provide some case studies and videos of people who have benefitted from any one of Attend ABI's initiatives. This could be through the Employment Programme, the Work Choice Programme, the Friends of Attend ABI (FAABI), Volunteering Solutions or Attend's Access to Work support.
Below is a short videography of the experiences of people who are living with an ABI and how this impacted their lives since, as well as the words of former clients and their accounts of the programme.
“Before my injury was the happiest time in my life, because everything was going all right. I was at university, I had a girlfriend, and I felt comfortable with myself.
“My brain injury occurred when I went away to Germany to study in May 2006. I’d been there about two months and one night when I was out with friends, this guy started an arguing with my pal. I ran to help and as I got there he tipped me up. I was up in the air and he smacked me down on my head. I remember being in and out of consciousness and when I later woke up in hospital, I thought I was dead.
“The doctors didn’t really tell me what effect my injury could have. I didn’t really know. I knew I had a really bad injury and I had been in a coma but that was it. My future was unclear. I was in hospital for three weeks.
“I took a year out of college and spent it seeing doctors almost every day. My behaviour was getting erratic. I could be on a high and be really happy, then I’d be down and very depressed. My personality changed.
“I’ve thought a lot about dying. Sometimes I couldn’t see the point in being alive.
“Then I got on the Attend ABI course. It has been good for me to meet other people with brain injuries. It’s good to finally talk to people who understand what it is like. It was a solace.
“I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember. I was at Attend and I was doing bits and pieces of work in the TV/ Film industry and we found a Tate internship.
“It was a hard one to get but we thought I should apply for it. I got the internship which I am really proud of. I was on the production team so I did research for upcoming films. I was also on film shoots and even ended up in a film as an extra.
“I am more focused and determined than before. I still have a lot of contact with David; he is the owner of my paintings.
“I have had gallery exhibitions in New York, South Korea, and London and Edinburgh. Now I am going to concentrate on paintings since this year I sold three big works.
“I’ve also recently taken part in the TOMS Art of Giving exhibition where I was given the opportunity to design and create my very own pair of TOMS shoes and TOMS eyewear. This means a lot to me as I see the exhibition as a platform to explore my manifesto in a new creative environment. Moreover, all profit from the exhibition goes to a number of local charities. Therefore, this is my way to help others in need.
“I feel optimistic now. Since being on the ABI course I’m definitely more confident with my injury. I had been so reluctant to let anyone know, but the course shows you shouldn’t be, it’s there and you’re getting the help.”
“In 2007 I was working in an oil and gas company as an administrator/PA in London. I was there for six months and really enjoyed it.
“Before and during that time, I was experiencing some really bad health issues. I kept getting terrible headaches, my speech was going out the window, I couldn’t say the words I wanted to say, my vision would black out and my sight had deteriorated altogether. I knew there was something wrong with me so I kept going to the doctors for help. Time after time, they would suggest that it was ‘nothing’ and kept dismissing my case so after a while, I just assumed that these problems were little things about ME. I would start to just believe it was from nerves, hunger or tiredness. Obviously I know now that these things led up to what they really were – a brain tumour.
“It was in May 2008 when I was diagnosed.
"In that year, one day, I decided to go to the opticians for my eyes. I felt incredibly frustrated that I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I felt that none of the doctors believed me and that nobody was listening. However, this time round, the opticians spotted some bleeding in the back of my eyes and thought there may be some cysts in both eyes. Following on from this, she referred me to St George's Hospital where they scanned my brain. They found the tumour which was 10cm – very big for a tumour. They said that due to the size, it must of been there for ten years, or over.
“The next day I went into surgery to get it removed; waiting any longer could have killed me.
“I was left with some really horrible symptoms. I couldn’t speak properly, I didn’t recognise people, my memory was very vague, my legs and arms were weak and both of my eyes were damaged (I have no proiferal vision in my right eye). I am also on medication for seizures which keeps it under control. I will be on tablets for the rest of my life. It sucks to think you have to depend on tablets.
“This all happened within the space of six months and after a while of undergoing rehabilitation, I had returned to the oil and gas company to begin working again. I was very lucky for them to have me back. However, all staff were later made redundent due to a merger.
“After this, I applied to many other jobs and was getting offers for many positions, but I found that they were not ideal for me. I was always given jobs that I couldn’t cope with because they were too overwhelming. Therefore, having tried and seen that these jobs weren’t for me, I went to the job centre (although I was reluctant at first). The job centre told me about Attend and how they could help, support and find jobs for me. I was really enthusiastic about this.
“I arrived at Attend in 2011 and did all sorts of things. A part of what the staff did was help you understand what had happened to you, how to understand your body and your brain. It was about helping you cope with the state you’re in now and how things would be different. They taught me coping strategies and I learnt how to go forward and not give up.
“I was encouraged to do some voluntary work and they helped to find me a placement in my local St Christopher’s Hospice. There, I was doing various tasks which were mainly admin related. It was nice being back in a working environment again . It made me feel more comfortable and able in myself.
“Since then, I have developed my own company – I am the founder of a website called ‘Aunty M Brain Tumours’ and have set up all kinds of social media network groups. Aunty M Brain Tumours acts as an online community for those affected by brain tumours. I actually created it initially because I saw what Attend was doing and really wanted to develop a space for individuals who specifically have or had brain tumours to come together, support, advise and help each other. Attend was a big influence on my website development and so I’ll be sure to return the favour and refer people to Attend if they are capable of coming.
“I also have my own book out, called 'Brain Tumour’s Travel Tale'. During my ordeal, I was writing a diary that recorded things that I discovered, things that had happened and things that were going to happen. It’s a very intimate tale of my personal experience and a year ago, I decided to turn it into a book and have put it on Amazon.
“So far, it is doing well. It was released in late December 2012, just before Christmas, and insofar I have sold around 58 books and have had over 600 digital downloads.
“For the future, I plan to keep on going with Aunty M Brain Tumours. It can be quite difficult because I don’t ask for money from the users so I really hope to secure some income to keep the site going. It’s really important to me”.
Work Choice Programme
“I call myself ‘a huggy person’ because I love life. I was very lucky because a lot of people with brain injuries get a massive change in their personality, while mine is very similar to what it was. Except I became a much more loving person.
“When I turned 13, I suddenly started having migraines which were actually mild brain haemorrhages but no-one knew. My injury happened while I was a PhD student and I was out for a Christmas Party when I got a really nasty migraine.
“It was an Arteriovenous Malformation, which is dodgy veins in the brain. I ended up going into a coma for 4 days. I didn’t know who my family were and I didn’t really know what the real world was.
“I suffer from pain 24 hours a day. The injury gave me the after-effects of a stroke including paralysation on one whole side of my body. I have to take a train because if I take the bus when it stops, I keep going.
“I had to basically completely change the direction of my life because I was aiming to be a pilot one day. The difficult thing is I can’t stand up for up for long periods of time, and I can’t read very well.
“I walked in to the Job Centre and felt very lost, like I wasn’t really wanted. They sent me to Attend and I had a meeting with Kieran and suddenly felt like I was cared for.
“I came into job club on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Attend is good for me because it gets me out of the house. Staying in drives me absolutely insane. At home I was getting lost on the computer because with my visual damage the website was like a black hole. I’ve always worked better in an office than at home, so I find that I spend more time on a computer at Attend than at home.
“It’s been brilliant because I’ve learnt things about myself that I didn’t know. I had a meeting with David and he was explaining that in the way I talked, I kept on apologising. I was like ‘do I? I didn’t know, sorry’ and I never realised it until David told me. It is very important to understand yourself.
“I never actually had an interview before so I got interview skills that were very helpful.
“Because I couldn’t be a pilot any longer I had to find a new hobby. I heard about the charity Tall Ships Youth Trust that takes kids from rough areas or people from deprived families out to sea. I went for a day sail and I realised I loved it. I couldn’t be a pilot but I could be a sailor.
“Insofar, I’ve been on two major voyages that lasted a week each. I have just booked to go on another in the upcoming month where we will be travelling from Plymouth to Liverpool! My role is ‘deck hand’ and my job is to go aloft into the mast and wait for the kids to come up. From there, I will guide them onto the actual sail and teach them what they are supposed to be doing. It’s such a rewarding experience!
“Volunteering gets you out of the house and gets you doing things. That’s the most important thing. Plus, it was through work experience that I got my first job.
“I’ve realised that life is good and everyone should enjoy it fully. Try every opportunity that there is to try.”
“Before my injury I would say I was a hard-working and positive person, albeit shy and somewhat short on confidence.
“I was working as an advisor in the job centre, in the department of ‘Work & Pensions’. For this, I was interviewing people for benefits suitability, working with NI and client details etc. I worked here for fifteen years – from when I left university up until the injury.
“The injury happened in 2005 when I was involved in a car crash. There were four lanes of traffic; I was in the second lane where I was trying to overtake a lorry that was in the first. Unfortunately, the lorry driver couldn’t see my car because of their blindspot and as a result, he side-swatted me. I was shunted into the third lane where another vehicle had hit the right hand side of my car. From that, my head was knocked into the driver’s panel. I passed out for a few minutes and later woke up in the middle of the motorway.
“The ambulance came and took me to the hospital for an observation. They found that the temporal bone on the right side of my head was damaged which meant that my hearing and my balance have suffered a lot from the injury.
“I remember feeling upset and angry at the time. I was angry at both myself and the lorry driver.
“For three or four years after the crash, I was on capacity benefit but I was taken off the benefit because they thought I could get back into employment. From there, I decided to go the job centre who then put me in touch with Attend in early 2012.
“When I started at Attend, I was here on Monday and Tuesdays. On Mondays, we would have sessions and talks which were administered by either Kieran and Anthony. I learnt a lot from these sessions. I learnt how to project myself, overcome barriers and push myself forward. Therefore, I would say that Attend helped me to overcome some of the confidence issues that I always had.
“Kieran also helped me a great deal with building up my CV. This was one of the main benefits of me coming to Attend because I didn’t have a clue on how to write a CV – mine wasn’t very concise before. I also had mock interviews and was taught career development skills.
“I like the fact that it’s quite informal here because I felt happy to bounce ideas off with staff and other clients. Being with the other clients in the same room helps because I know we’ve all experienced similar incidents. You start to feel that you’re not alone and often, you can fall into that feeling of loneliness after such an incident, which happened with me. When I was on the capacity benefits, I would be waking up at 9am, having my breakfast and wondering what else I could do for the entire day. I didn’t have to do that when I was coming to Attend. I had a lot more structure and a better daily routine.
“Currently, I am working at Sainsbury as a ‘Code Controller’. I got the job two weeks after I had a mock interview with Kieran who helped me to prepare for what type of questions I could be asked. My duties include stock taking and regulating foods that are soon going to expire.
“I really like the team there – there’s a good team ethos. I feel accepted there too because it’s a disability-friendly environment. This was something I thought was lacking at my job in civil services, so in this aspect, I believe Sainsbury’s are better. I know it might not be the most exciting, or well-paid job, but I see it as an experience and as a learning step. I am able to develop my communication skills and so on".
“The accident occurred in 1998, when I was twenty years old.
“At the time, I was studying at Manchester University doing a geography degree, which I really enjoyed, but couldn’t complete because it was during my course that I had my accident.
“I was at a Christmas party, on the 20th December, and was on the roof which I fell through. I had hit my head quite badly and passed out. I felt the consequences of the fall in the following days so I decided to go to the National Neurology hospital on boxing day. They scanned my head and later removed a large blood clot from my brain. After that, I fell into a coma for three months which resulted in my brain injury.
“The main challenges I faced after the coma was epilepsy, panic attacks and dysarthria – meaning I could not speak properly. I remember not being able to say much; I could only say a few words at a time so I struggled a lot with that. I also suffered from memory loss and could not remember most of the little things that I use to do. For example, I couldn’t remember how to do shoelaces or a tie.
“It was in September 2011 that I was referred to Attend by my Disability Employment Advisor at the job centre who knew Kieran. Since being here, I’ve been attending the ABI Work Choice Programme which has helped me in lots of different ways. Attend has helped me to build my CV; search for jobs online; and fill out applications.
“Currently, I am working at McDonalds in the back of house which I really enjoy because it allows me to build upon my experience and has also given me more of a structure to my week. I also get to work in a team there which I really enjoy. Teamwork is crucial in this field – it’s vital to talk, listen and engage with one another to get the results we need, and I believe I’m fulfilling this. I have recently been offered a promotion to cooking duties which they will provide training for.
“Attend works so well because the staff here put you in the right frame of mind to work. I had previously gone to the job centre which didn’t really work for me. I felt Attend was better suited for my needs. It was good to meet other ABI clients in a comfortable environment and to find that we were all in the same boat with similar experiences. Attend made me feel ready to get back into paid employment.
“The staff are especially helpful. Since being here, I have received a lot of support from Kieran, Anthony and David. David was my mentor when I first arrived and I remember him taking time out to meet with me regularly just to discuss how I was doing. Because of that, Attend have given me the confidence to take a step forward.
“In the future, I currently plan to stay at McDonalds to build up my skills. I would also like to work outdoors, for example I would like to do a bit of gardening, or become an environmental cleaner”.
“Between the years of 2005-2011, I was preoccupied with many things. I had finished my masters degree in Radio at the University of Surrey and had gone on to work for a number of companies including working at the O2 Arena and working as an Audio Visual technician. I also did a lot of charity work in between. All of these job roles and positions were linked to my chosen future career in Radio which I was determined to get into and I found that I was doing really well. For instance, I was volunteering at Whitechapel AM, the hospital radio station, then became their award co-ordinator and finally their CEO. 2011 was the year where I was too ill to continue working.
“It became apparent that something was wrong when I started to get fazing moments – a feeling of disorientation and fuzziness. It’s a difficult feeling to explain but it would be the equivalent of watching a movie, leaving the room for one or two minutes, then coming back to the same movie having it moved forward ten minutes and you’re wondering how the film moved on so much in such a short time.
“I, then, started to experience seizures. The worst one was when I was with a colleague and we were going down the escalator and I had a seizure at that moment of time. I passed out and fell forward and down the escalator and hurt her. I had another seizure at a time where my mother’s cousin (a consultant in Cambridgeshire at an NHS Trust) was staying with us. He witnessed me having a seizure and wrote a letter to the GP who sent for me to have an MRI scan. When I went to the scan, the technician spotted a tumour on the right side of my brain. I remember the whole ordeal being very stressful and traumatic. It happened during a time where I had just lost my job, my wife was heavily pregnant, and my grandfather’s health had deteriorated.
“It was the 30th November 2009 (15 days after my son was born) when I had my surgery; it was a craniotomy which allows the doctors to take a deeper look at the tumour to make sure they knew what they were dealing with. In the end, they found out that the tumour was not something they could not get rid of. It can’t be removed because if it were, I would lose my communication and coordination. The tumour is with me for life.
“Following from that, I was treated with anticonvulsive medicine in 2010-2011. My life consisted of taking medicine; going to doctors; seeing lots of consultants; having check-ups with neurosurgeons who would scan my brain every four months; and seeing my neurologist who would give me my medicine and observe any behavioural changes. When the tumour started becoming aggressive, I was given 6 weeks of radiotherapy. After that, I was on steroids for a month. Steroids make you very hungry and so I ballooned from 16 stones up to 18 stones.
“Due to the tumour, I am an epileptic and still get seizures. I don’t have full seizures, I have partial seizures which I would describe as moments where I fade in and out of reality. When these occur, I can get intense feelings of pressure in both temples and it feels as if somebody has locked my jaw. If I was holding something, my hand would shake and I may drop the object. I can also ask others a question that is completely off centre.
“In terms of the social consequences, I was at home a lot and hadn’t been doing anything with my life. I was just getting fat and playing solitaire for days on end. My friends would come and meet me but it didn’t feel like we had the same level of friendship as we did before my tumour. They would ask ‘Hey, how are you?’, as opposed to ‘Hey, we’re going out now!’. Questions always revolved around my health and after a while, you start to fake your answers. I’d answer ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ but really, I was bored of the questions that had no substance anymore.
“It was March 2012 when I came to Attend. I was referred by my Disability Employment Advisor at the Job Centre who told me about Attend’s Employment Programme. When I arrived, Anthony, Kieran and David were the ones who worked on directly helping me. Anthony and Kieran helped me to develop my CV – which is now a million times better. As for David, he was my mentor and he understood me very well. He saw things from my position and helped me to build up a level of confidence. Furthermore, he taught me not to get lost in a world where I would be discouraged from getting out of bed. He was an immense help.
“Attend also got me out of the house. It allowed me to become a person again. The personality I had prior the tumour had returned after coming to Attend. In other words, Attend helped me a lot with the behavioural aspects of my life and I’ll say this, after three weeks, I felt very at home here. Normally, in a few places of work I would feel very comfortable but I was extremely happy here. The staff are fabulous. They really care.
“Currently, I am working at the BBC - with Attend having helped me with my application. The BBC run a course called ‘Extend’ whereby they offer a number of placements for suitable/highly qualified disabled persons. I am working there on a six month contract and my title is ‘Studio Manager and Operations Assistant’.
“My role requires me to record live material to be used for programmes that are broadcasted to Africa, or anywhere around the world for that matter. Insofar, I’ve had ten pieces on air that I have put together. For this, I call people up, set up the studio and conduct sound checks. I’m very happy here. I work in a great team with everyone respecting one another and I believe that working at the BBC has been my ‘Mount Everest’. It’s my dream job. The way I see it is that seven thousand people have applied for thirty-two positions and I secured one of them.
“For the future, I hope to stay at the BBC and get a permanent job offer. I have work-related objectives to help me achieve this. For example, I wish to broaden my social network, attend the career development programme that they run there, and learn more about different areas that I might want to go into, i.e. broadcast technology, live streaming and so on”.
Access to Work
“The problem with a brain injury is that it’s not visible.
"It’s easy for employers or colleagues to not understand. Having to explain it on a frequent basis gets quite embarrassing. People don’t understand why you can’t do something or remember something.
“I fell downstairs at a tube station and I hit my head very badly and was taken in ambulance to the hospital. That was in January 2011. I tried to go back to work a week later. And then tried a week after that, as the doctor said it was just a concussion. I kept trying to go back and struggling.
“I went through a year trying to manage this by myself but coaching has made a massive difference. When I think back now to my first year; I feel so sorry for that person. How do you help yourself when you can’t even think properly?
“Work became a stressful part of my life. Professional life is a big part of my identity and I take a lot of pride in my work so that knocked me pretty hard.
“I worked as an HR and Office Manager for a charity. During my recovery period I went down to HR Officer.
“After the accident – not knowing what was going on and being out of control was tough and it was difficult to communicate to others. I had terrible headaches that didn’t go away, was throwing up, and was feeling dazed and confused quite a lot. I wasn’t sleeping well and had memory and concentration problems and was very sensitive to noise.
“With a job coach I could talk through how I was feeling and examine my thought processes to look for the root cause of my difficulties. Having someone else say ‘what you’re feeling is normal’ and explain it to my employer gave me a sense of calm. I had someone to back me up and validate what I was going through. That in itself was a massive win!
“It was an open dialogue which was brilliant because Kieran would take things out of our conversations to work around, always checking with me to make sure he got the right end of the stick, which he always did. It was free flowing and definitely centred around what worked for me.
“I think that is very good because no two people are the same and definitely no brain injuries are the same.
“The sessions were practical – going through different ways of working. My multi-tasking was impacted. I had to work out how to be effective in a different way and we looked at different techniques to do that.
“I had an aversive reaction to noise due to the accident (Hyperacusis). We figured out techniques to approach that. Before, I’d be sitting at desk and someone would have a conversation over the office that was loud and this would have derailed me.
“Now I’ve gotten used to the idea of noise and calm myself down using mindfulness techniques as one example. I remain in my own space and slowly deal with that and change what I’m working on i.e. avoid work that needs a lot of concentration and attention to detail such as figures.
“I have come to rely on four key words that have made a big impact on my daily living: Patience; Persistence; Positivity; and Reflection.
“Today I am back in my position as the HR Manager, which is the job I always wanted. And while I still have to deal with some of the symptoms I have come to realise that while my accident and the resulting brain injury is part of me, it doesn’t have to define me.”
“For the past 25 years I’ve been working as a probation officer; my job is to work with victims of serious crime. I represent them and act as their voice in the criminal justice system at hearings and other important stages of the offender’s sentence. I’ve always had a good reputation at work for knowing everything. People would say ‘Ask Ann, she knows’. However, the unfortunate reality is that this has changed since my injury. Everything is so much harder and requires much more effort.
“It was in 2008 when I was on holiday on a Greek island with my husband. In our final week of the vacation, we were clambering over rocks and walking around the cliff bays. We reached a cliff path that appeared to be some sort of ‘stepping stone’ down to the beach.
“My husband had taken the first step and was standing there with his arm extended ready to support me. He looked up at me and said ‘C’mon, we’re pioneers!’ as that was our little joke. I don’t remember any details after that because that was when I fell down the cliff. My husband told me that in the moment he took his eyes off me, I flew past him, tumbling down the cliff. It was a 30ft drop and I had smashed my body against the rocks until I landed at the bottom. My husband describes the sound of my head hitting a rock like a bat hitting a baseball. I had lost consciousness but he thought I was dead.
“When I regained consciousness, I didn’t know what had happened. I looked at the rocks I was laying on and just thought ‘this is an odd place to sunbathe’ but then I touched my head and saw that a bunch of hair and skin had come off into my hands. My husband and I cleaned me up with antibacterial wipes and we headed back to the hotel. He said I told him I was fine, but I don’t remember that. The journey was an hour long but I can’t recall it. I went to bed and slept through the night. Apparently I had been as still as a stone. When I woke up, I knew something was wrong. My head was in a lot of pain and I kept walking into the walls instead of through the door. I felt like I was going to die and so we went to the local hospital.
“In A&E, I had to wait a long time to be seen. When I eventually was, nobody even parted my hair to look at my head. I was just put on a drip and monitored for a few days. I decided to pay for a CAT scan whilst I was out there, however there was nobody available to interpret the scan in Greece.
“When my insurance company flew me back to England, I took my scan to a neurologist. She sent me for an MRI and discovered areas in my brain which located the injuries.
“I was left with numerous symptoms and side effects. I can’t list them all because even to this day I encounter things that I realise I can no longer do. However the main issues were the fluidity of my speech and the anxiety and confusion that I encounter due to my disability.
“My speech further deteriorated once I returned to work; this was three months after I had been discharged from hospital. I’d been in the office about ten minutes and my boss opened up a big stationary cupboard and said ‘Look, we’ve kept all your work in here. It’s been waiting for you’.
At that moment, I thought my head was going to explode. I was completely overwhelmed and from then on and I couldn’t speak at all. All I could do was make ‘mur mur mur’ noises. I couldn’t form a sentence, I just couldn’t breathe. I had to get speech therapy to learn how to sustain my breath through a whole sentence. My speech eventually got better but to this day, I still stutter a lot and get very nervous speaking to new people.
“At work, I contacted somebody from the HR department to tell him I was still struggling. He arranged for a work psychologist to visit and assess me. After a series of tests, he wrote a report about what I could and couldn’t do. He said I needed help with my spatial awareness, I needed documents to be put into better reading forms and I needed a longer time to absorb information. I also struggled with the alphabet and so he made note of that. As a result, he recommended a job coach from Attend and duly, Bridget came along who helped me a lot with creating coping mechanisms at work. However she left the organisation in 2011 and was replaced with Anthony.
“I remember feeling very anxious about somebody new coming along. After all, I felt like Bridget was my rock at work. However Anthony proved to be an immense help and made me feel so secure. He helps with a range of things. One of the most useful things Anthony has suggested for me to do is to keep a little notepad with things I need to remember, for example passwords and phrases that I often forget and need reminding of. Anthony also helps me with directions and plans my journeys with me for when I need to go somewhere for work. What’s more, he has told me that at any time I get lost, I am free to give him a ring and he would direct me from where I was. I think this is amazing because once I get lost, I get stressed and become overwhelmed by all the pressure.
“All in all, Anthony is fantastic; he helps me with so much, not just with the things I’ve mentioned. I am so thankful to have him as my job coach up until my retirement because I fear what work would be like without him. Also, through talking to him, I found out about FAABI…
“I first started coming to the FAABI social occasions. FAABI announced that they were doing ‘extra-curricular’ type courses and so I signed up for the first one - ‘Law for Life’. I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I started, I was pleasantly surprised. I found the course really interesting and learnt a lot about civil law and our rights. However, the best thing for me wasn’t the course material. It was meeting people with disabilities who had similar experiences to mine.
“Since then, I have also signed up for the ‘Art for Life’ event at the Tate, the cake decorating course, and the ARNI exercise classes. In each course, I met different ABI clients and learnt new things that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The cake decorating course stood out for me especially because the course teacher, Marina, who had a brain injury herself, was considerate and caring and ensured that we all enjoyed the course.
“I would recommend FAABI to everybody because there’s no doubt that they’d get something out of it, and enjoy it. Plus it gets you out of the house and gives you something fun, and worthwhile, to do. Attend, their staff, and FAABI have all been so brilliant.”
“Before my injury, I worked in many different roles and had various jobs. I use to have a catering job at Chartwell House; I worked at a Natwest Bank; I was a postman temporarily; and then got into organising events for a number of DJ’s. I was very successful in the latter role – I ran events, was setting up gigs, promoting parties and working alongside a number of famous muscians in London. However I had to stop because it was around this time that I had my accident.
“When I was twenty-one years old, I was involved in a road accident. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and got into a car crash. Looking back, I can say that this was when my whole life took a turn for the worse. I suffered from slight asphasia on the brain and was in a coma for five or six days. Altogether, I was in hospital (Queen Elizabeth) for two years and they helped me a lot with physiotheraphy and speech therapy.
“After I came out of the coma, I got a job in Sainsbury, working a few hours a week. Although this was good news, I didn’t feel 100% myself. I started to wonder ‘Who am I?’ and ‘what am I going to do next’. I was alive, yes, but I didn’t feel happy. It was a stressful period.
“When I got to thirty years old, my relationship with my partner broke down. She left and wasn’t allowing me to see my daughter. I remember feeling at my worst when that was happening. That’s when I tried to comment suicide.
“My symptoms afterwards included not being able to recall names and addresses and being unable to communicate via phone. Also, my reading and writing was badly affected.
“I came to Attend roughly around two years ago. I worked with Kieran a lot who helped me with my CV and my communication skills. He also helped me to increase my hours and experience at Sainsbury. Before that, I was originally doing stock filling duties but since Kieran’s help, I have completed trolley and basket collections and stock checks. This led up to a part-time job.
“I have also taken up painting as a hobby. I often get requests from parents to draw themselves and their children. I do this from home and will frame and sell my paintings to those who have asked for one. I really enjoy this and find it a really therapeutic process.
“I am a lot happier now. I wake up and think to myself ‘I like my home, I now live with my daughter, I have a cat who I love’ so I am in a much more positive place”.
“Before my injury, I was taking my gap year with the plans of going to university after that. However at the end of my first gap year, I decided to take another and go to study abroad. For this, I went to Tel Aviv to study Analytical Thinking and Jewish Thinking. One day when I was going to a wedding, I crossed the road and was hit by a car. Immediately, I was knocked out and was rushed to hospital. This happened in 2003 when I was nineteen years old.
“My mum, who is a doctor, heard about my incident and moved me from Tel Aviv to a hospital in Raanana which was known to be the best hospital for rehabilitation. I ended up staying there for a two year period.
“In 2005, I returned to London. Art has always been the love of my life and so I continued down that route and undertook an Architecture degree at the University of Greenwich. This is a seven year course but it is split into sections. The first is an initial three year course, followed by a one year work placement, then returning back to university and completing the other three years. Insofar, I have already completed the first three years, but I did it part-time over the space of four years. Currently I am at the work placement/experience stage and that is where Attend comes in.
“I came to Attend in hope that they would help me find a placement for this course. Before that, I had tried to find work myself but had no luck. After working with Nichole, she recommended for me to try out for a placement in an Architecture office in Harrow on the Hill which does extensions, home conversions, school projects and so on. After helping me with the application and all the other necessary bits, I got the role and am currently working on a project for a house in Devon.
“This has been incredibly satisfying and so far, I have learnt a lot here so it has been a much valued experience. What’s great is that I am able to build up on my portfolio there too. Currently, I am there for two days a week, from 9am-5pm, but I hope to step up the number of hours in the upcoming months.
“Attend have not only helped me with the placement, they’ve helped me on a personal matter too. After my injury, I didn’t look forward to much and had very little to do. I felt rather useless and a bit lost in society. However, after I came to Attend, I felt very motivated – they encouraged me to get back out there. Attend gave me much more of a focus and put me back on track in life. I think the people are amazing here.
“In the immediate future, I wish to continue my work at the placement and then complete my degree at Greenwich. After that, I won’t say that I want to go into Architecture but I do wish to get into some sort of art-orientated world. Ultimately, I wish to use my artistic expression in some sort of format as it’s been my passion since young”.
"When I was a child, I loved reading bed time stories with my mother. My mother is absolutely amazing; she hadn’t been to university and wasn’t greatly educated but she is incredibly intuitive and has much sense. One night, when I was four and a half years old, I couldn’t see the pictures in my book and had to bring the book right up to my face. My mum thought that was strange as I didn’t usually do that. That’s when my parents made a few phone calls and we managed to come to England to get my sight checked out. They discovered that I had a brain tumour which was the most aggressive type in childhood – a medulloblastoma.
"I had the tumour removed which was followed by a lot of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to make sure it wouldn’t return. As I was so young, I cannot remember much about the recovery but I would say that I feel as though I beat the odds. From having such an aggressive tumour at such age, I went on to have a relatively normal childhood despite my health being constantly under observation.
"At eighteen years old, I went to university. I always had a passion for History/Archaeology but I was also interested in hotel management. In the end, I chose to study Hotel Management and Hotel Catering for my degree at Cardiff University. I thoroughly enjoyed it and when I graduated, I went for my first interview at the Cumberland Hotel and got the job! I was there for about a year or two but an offer came up at the Hilton hotel in the Hyde Park area which I couldn’t refuse.
"I enjoyed my job at the Hilton very much but after a while, I found that it took away my social life. I didn’t have the weekends off, I worked the holidays and I was lumbered with the ‘graveyard’ shifts that went from 11pm to 10am the next day. I decided that it was time for a change so I enrolled in a cake decorating course in 2003. It was odd because a few days later, I found my old school books where I had written my goals for the future in a ‘careers advice’ lesson. I found that wanting to get involved in cake decorating was on that list!
"I was never the type of person to get headaches and migraines. I got stressed, yes, but never got headaches or migraines. However I started getting them and so I took it as an indication that something may be wrong. I went to get checked at my doctors and that’s when they told me that I had a tumour, again. I would bet my last pound that the second tumour was a result of the radiotherapy and chemotherapy used to eradicate the first. However I would say I was lucky because it grew at a snail’s pace. In 2005, the doctors told me they would look into having the tumour out in the next two years so in 2007 (I was 27), it was time for another operation.
"I wasn’t scared. I had so many operations by then that I felt like a pro. I was more worried for my family and friends; I didn’t want them to stress. In the end, the operation was a success. All in all, I was only in hospital for a few days – I went in on the Sunday, operated on the Monday and I was out by Friday!
"The main symptom from the tumour was memory loss. Before that, I had excellent memory and could recall many names and faces. I spoke four languages which alone is a merit to my memory! However after the tumour, I would often have to admit to individuals that I couldn’t remember their names and I resented that. My self-esteem also suffered slightly. I had stitches in my head and so, I felt very self-conscious when I went out. However I am grateful that that those were my main symptoms because I’m aware that others suffer from epilepsy and panic attacks as their side effects, so I count myself lucky.
"Afterwards, I focused on jobs again. I had an offer coming in from Hilton in Holland Park, asking me to be a PA to their manager director, but I turned it down. It would have been too stressful. I kept on with my cake decorating, however, as I found it to be the most satisfying activity for me to do.
"Last September, I came to a FAABI drinks event at Attend. I’m glad I came because I got to meet some wonderful people. One of whom was Kieran’s partner, Paula, who I got speaking about my cake decorating to. The idea of me running a cake decorating course at Attend came up and so in the next few days, Anthony had gotten in touch with me and we met to discuss lesson plans.
"On 10th January 2013, I was running a six-week long FAABI course on cake-decorating at Attend for the clients here. It was absolutely brilliant. Kieran rang me to see what tools I needed and whenever I’d come in, the room would be set out with all the equipment – mats, rolling pins, cakes to decorate (all of which they had bought just for me!). I was so touched. As our theme was valentine’s day, I taught clients how to make little hearts, how to pipe icing, write letters and showed them how to make their cake look like presents with bows.
"The course was a success. I got given a thank-you card at the end of it which had some very lovely messages about the course, and Eric had given me flowers!
"This wasn’t my only FAABI event. I had previously gone to the Law for Life course in November 2012 which was also six-weeks long. That was led by a couple of lawyers who taught us about the nature of the law, the rights we are entitled to, addressing legal issues and so on. That was fantastic. I learnt so much there and couldn’t thank FAABI enough for what they had arranged.
"The staff at Attend are so special. They’re positive and knowledgeable and willing to help. I would definitely recommend others to join in with FAABI and go to their events. They are really fantastic. Furthermore, you get to meet other individuals who just ‘get’ you. In my life, people hear my story but without much experience on mental disorders, they don’t understand you so much. But at FAABI, they do. You talk to people about your background, your tumour and they know exactly how you feel and what you mean".
Before my accident, I was 18 and I had just finished a two-year course to qualify as a horse riding instructor. I was a very active person and really enjoyed working with the horses. Two weeks after receiving my qualification, I was in a car accident.
I suffered a serious head injury, and I stayed in hospital and rehabilitation for nine months.
I remember feeling absolutely devastated. I had to be in a wheelchair for a year, my speech was very poor and my confidence was shattered. I felt like life was over for me but I just knew I had to rebuild it.
With lots of support I eventually got work in an office. It wasn’t a career path I would have originally chosen, but the accident has changed the course of my life and I’ve accepted that now.
I heard about Friends of Attend ABI (FAABI) and decided to find out if it could offer me any social activities that were available for people with head injuries. I started by coming to a discussion group, I felt that we all had a connection because we went through similar experiences and so I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel stupid when I said what I wanted to say. This, alone, was refreshing and so FAABI was a safe haven.
Recently I came to FAABI’s Subbuteo evenings. I had never played Subbuteo before, however having been to FAABI before and knowing that it would be nothing but fun, I came to the first session.
Initially I came and simply saw it as a social thing where I would just come in and chat to other people about the games. However I started playing a few matches myself and found that I really got into it. I’ve always been a competitive person and Subbuteo bought that side right out of me! In the end, I ended up winning the entire competition and was very happy about this!
Overall, I think FAABI is fantastic. I personally see the social side of it as being the main benefit but it has given me so much more too. Because of FAABI, my confidence has grown and it has given me something to look forward to every week.
After my accident, I felt I had to start all over again in life and looking back, I believe I have achieved great things. My life now is very different to the life I had before but the most important thing is that I feel like I am living.