Personal Stories

We have many personal stories that are both touching and inspiring.  Our Members’ stories will appear in our future newsletter.  We have highlighted a couple of them here:

Anne Dawson

Anne is an amazing lady who sustained a brain injury in 1993. Anne and her mum, Clare, gave us this very brave account of what happened and how her brain injury has changed her life.

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Elly has had an army career and in 2005 suffered a dense stroke, immediately after being diagnosed with Leukaemia, which has left her with significant problems. She has written about her difficulties and you will see from her story that she is a very courageous and determined person....

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My Story
by Elly Harnott

In November 2005 at the age of 48 I suffered a dense stroke. I had been to a Bob Dylan concert in Glasgow with a friend and she became concerned about my speech being ‘weird’, I also had a painful headache. I don’t remember the concert and the next day we managed to get an earlier train back to Darlington where my husband Phil was waiting to take me to A & E. It was strange, I recognised him but could not recall his name.

Some tests were carried out at Darlington Hospital and the following Tuesday I was transferred to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. They diagnosed Leukaemia and said I’d be in hospital for about a month and would have chemotherapy to get rid of it but the next morning I had the stroke.
After five months in hospital I ‘escaped’ with a bald head and my right side not working properly. I realised that what I missed most was not being able to speak. Each week I may wish to win the lottery. To me, winning the lottery would not be about money but about being able to speak enough so that people could understand me.

As time passed my right leg became stronger but I needed to wear a splint for support and use a walking stick. After many months of physiotherapy my right arm is still no good. I was always going to the gym before I was poorly, so I hoped with exercise, my walking would improve. I would go out on my own to prove to myself that I’m normal. I would walk where I live, then to Richmond and then ‘jump’ with my stick onto the bus to Darlington, Northallerton, Durham or Newcastle.

About a year after my stroke I was in London visiting my aunt. One day, I tried to go about London on buses alone, I succeeded. I don’t know how long my hips will last because my left hip has to work harder, but I can walk again even though it is difficult and tiring!! I’m fortunate that I have always been very fit as this has helped.

At first I was happy on the bus or walking around and I hoped that no one would talk to me because I couldn’t answer them. If somebody talked to me, I just shrugged my shoulders. I could understand them but was unable to speak at all – like a foreigner. I was worried in case anybody thought I was stupid. In my head I worked out what I wanted to say but it wouldn’t come out. I practised each day with Phil helping me to go over words again and again. I wrote a diary every day and at first it did not make sense to anyone else trying to read it but as the weeks and months passed it improved. It was very tiring for me but I knew that if I had any hope of speech at all I had to keep trying. It took several years for me to speak slowly and complete the end of certain words. If a friend’s first name begins with ‘R’, or if I said something to do with a word starting with ‘R’, I would giggle. I thought I was a female Johnathan Woss – I mean Ross!!! My speaking is much better now, not the way it used to be but every day I am improving a little.

If you meet me on a bus or walking around the place or in a shop, please listen to me, I am not stupid, I am Elly who had the misfortune to suffer a stroke and I will speak properly again!!! In fact, since attending Headway in Darlington and meeting other people who have also suffered brain injuries, I am much more confident speaking to people.


Tony and Diane

Between 2011 and 2014, Tony suffered two brain abscesses, hydrocephalus and three strokes which have left him with significant visual, cognitive and physical disabilities. Diane, his wife, is his full time carer and has been a constant source of support to him. Diane has written the following Ode to her husband’s brain...

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Between 2011 and 2014, Tony suffered two brain abscesses, hydrocephalus and three strokes which have left him with significant visual, cognitive and physical disabilities.   Diane, his wife, is his full time carer and has been a constant source of support to him.   Diane has written the following Ode to her husband’s brain…

ODE TO TONY’S BRAIN (Dedicated to an incredibly strong, courageous, man, my husband) by Diane Bousfield

My brain injury is invisible to see,
Head still on the body or appears to be.
My files are a little bit out of sync
Wires desperately firing to find the missing link.

My processing speed was second to none,
When I woke up from coma it had got up and gone.
Substituting the wrong words keeps my wife on her toes,
She’s used to it by now and always knows
The right words to say to get me back on track.
Her support and positivity are not things I lack.

My emotions are up, some days down
Happy and positive, or sad like a clown.
25% vision remains of my sight
And I continually see the sky at night
Flashing through my visual field like shooting stars,
Bright and glowing like the headlights of cars.

My balance is wobbly, walking hard work,
Not a job for the weak to shirk
The outside world becomes an obstacle course.
If my hearing aids aren’t working my wife becomes hoarse
Constantly guiding me round people lamp posts and things,
Not to mention those ever multiplying wheelie bins.
Humour is the best order of the day
To encourage me along the way.

We can sometimes be seen on Saltburn Pier,
I’m in my wheelchair forgetting brakes and gears,
Rapidly moving like I’m part of a race,
My wife running behind me at an increasing pace.
My memory fails as I approach the Pier
My wife’s quick instructions remove my fear.
Collision avoided by applying the brakes,
Life is now full of high risk stakes.

Our social life revolves around medics and groups,
I wouldn’t exist without their tricks and hoops.
My neurosurgeon’s passion is my reason for being
Without his intervention I would cease to be seen living.
Medics fought to keep me alive,
Now I have the opportunity to thrive.

Before my brush with the afterlife I could drive a car,
An excellent navigator both near and far.
Now a routine trip to the consultant can end up in a cupboard,
My visual processing pathways are definitely scuppered.
Memories are spasmodic, some completely gone
And my recall time is particularly long.
I can’t make decisions or plan what to do,
Need prompting to eat, drink or go to the loo.

My speech is fluent, intelligence intact,
Parts of my brain not yet attacked.
Who really has the brain injury sometimes I wonder
As some friends and visitors stutter and stumble
Their memories are also failing, they ask my advice.
Only problem is they need to ask twice.
What part of brain injury don’t they understand?
I’m not out of sight or mind still in the same land

Now heading off on a different note,
Headway Darlington has my vote.


Cerys (young daughter of a brain injury survivor)

Cerys was 6 months old when her daddy sustained a severe brain injury. Now just over 5 years later and during Action for Brain Injury Week 2016, Cerys wanted to share her feelings too!

We corrected her spelling only - here is her presentation.

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Big 'Thank you' to Co-op members!
Thanks to the Co-op Community fund and the wonderful Co-op members who have supported our cause!  

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Headway Darlington Aug 14, 08:32pm
@AndyBellTees @BBCTees @amycrosby87 Wow! Major thanks!!! We are thinking of asking @AndyBellTees to convince Mrs?