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Improving life after brain injury

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Through the Eyes of a Volunteer

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Find out what it’s REALLY like to be a volunteer in the Rehabilitation Centre here at Headway Shropshire as Michael, one of our fundraisers, talks to Sally, a long-serving volunteer in the Headway Shropshire Rehabilitation Centre...

So Sally, how long have you been a volunteer at Headway Shropshire?

I think it’s 17 years this year.

And what sort of things have you done here?

Well, we used to come in and do everything – anything – you know, if washing up needed doing, and then it was suggested ‘Well why don’t we use your talents?”, so I do cognitive work because I was a primary school teacher – reading; I’m not so hot on the numbers, so it’s mostly reading, and cognitive exercises, that sort of thing. And at the moment I’ve have two clients that I work with one morning each week.

One is aphasic, so he has difficulties reading and talking; and the other one reads very well, but her sight’s been poor, and she doesn’t remember it, so she’s got memory problems but she can read very well in fact.

So do you find that you tend to read the same things more than once to help it sink in?

Well, my one client’s reading though a favourite series of books at the moment. She just wants to re-read them all because she’s read them before, but doesn’t remember any of them. But she’s getting better at remembering, because I’ll go back two or three pages, ‘Oh yes’, she says, ‘I remember that, and then he does so-and-so’, and I say ‘So you see you ARE beginning to remember’.

As for the other client I work with, he has great difficulty with speaking and gets very frustrated, and I’ll say things like ‘Well, try and go round a different way, instead of trying to do it the way you’re doing it’, and it works sometimes.

We also chat quite a lot of the time. His wife’s got a book that she sends with him, where she writes down what he’s done during the week, so it’s something to talk about from home, which I think is good.

So over time then, do you notice a progression?

Well there certainly has been with him, yes. When he first came he stood and watched for ages, but I’ve noticed we have another chap who comes along who has a similar problem, and they are now talking to each other, and a year ago they weren’t. So he’s more relaxed.

You say a year ago they weren’t talking to each other?

Not in the way they are now.

Is that the timescale you find is common for seeing progression?

No, everybody’s different you see, it’s very difficult to put a timing on anything, because every brain injury is different.

So from the clients’ point of view, what would you say are the main benefits of coming here?

I would think a lot of it is social, to start with anyway, because some of our clients are living alone, or they’ve got problems at home, and I think the social side is very important. I used to say to the manager here, ‘I haven’t done much today’ and she’d said, ‘Yes you have – social interaction’, and that’s just as important. Often if clients don’t feel like doing any activities, they still want to have chats, especially if they’ve no-one at home to chat to, and even if they’ve got a wife or a husband they’re probably out anyway, so they’re on their own all day.

Do you find you have to push the clients much to get them involved in doing things?

No, you can’t do that. You can’t make clients do things. It often comes from them, when they want to do something like reading or something like that. Then the volunteer organiser will approach me and say how about doing something with so-and-so, and I’ll say ‘yes, fine’ and we go from there.

There was one chap, he’d never painted. His wife was an artist, and he said, ‘Oh no, I just do the frames’ (because I think he was a joiner or carpenter). He’d never painted before and yet he did the most beautiful watercolours, which is one of the most difficult things to do, and I thought, if he hadn’t come to Headway, he’d never have done that.

Apart from the activities, do you think on the social side that confidence increases as people attend?

Yes, I think it does, as people get to know each other. There’s a chap who comes on a Tuesday, and I can remember his face when he came in, as if to say ‘What on earth am I doing here?’ So you find at first that some people have a hard time accepting it, but he soon settled in!

And what can you say to people to give them comfort and support in that situation?

It’s difficult. We talk, and I’ll say, ‘What happened to you?’ and ‘What did you do before?’ and things like that. And then I can say, ‘Well, you’ve done that, and nobody can take that away from you.’

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a volunteer at Headway?

I think making friends really. There are a lot of lovely people. Not everybody gets on with everybody else; that’s life. It is rewarding when you see improvements, like when a client says, ‘I can’t remember a thing I read last week’ and then she starts reading and she says ‘Oh yes, I DO remember this!’ and you think – well things are beginning to improve. There’s always something, or you make someone laugh, that sort of thing.

What sort of advice would you give to someone if they are thinking of becoming a volunteer at Headway Shropshire?

Well one thing I would say is – do it, and don’t come and go, because we’ve had people who have come and not stayed, which is difficult for the clients, because they really like continuity.

Also, one of the problems with aphasia, which a lot of brain-injured people have, is that if they’re around people who are talking like we are, by the time they’ve got it sorted in their heads, you’re onto the next thing! So it’s important to speak more slowly, leave pauses. You have to think about that.

And how do you see things developing here in the future?

Well, more money is always needed. But it’s really nice to see that the atmosphere in the building is positive and happy, and that’s something that has survived despite all the challenges and changes over the years.

Well, thanks Sally for your time and for a very detailed insight into Headway Shropshire “through the eyes of a volunteer”.

Do you have what it takes to be a Volunteer?

Friday, May 15, 2015

What We Offer

At Headway Shropshire, our volunteers enjoy the unique and fulfilling experience of working with brain-injured people. It’s a volunteering opportunity like no other.

If you want to give something back and contribute to our work with people who have acquired brain injuries, here are some of the things that you might become involved in as a volunteer:

  • - Helping out with activities where we have a need, such as painting with client, assisting in the woodwork room, helping a client to cook a meal in our kitchen.
  • - Playing board games or helping with reading.
  • - Engaging our clients in conversation or spending time listening to someone.

We will never expect you to carry out tasks like first aid, personal care or moving & handling – our specialist staff is always on hand take care of those things.

What We Need From You

First of all, we can only accept adult volunteers over 18 years of age. Secondly, we can’t accept clients or their relatives as volunteers because, as you will understand, we need to protect the confidentiality of our other clients.

Secondly, our brain-injured clients need continuity. They need to know that you will be there for them on the same day each week. For our clients, many of whom live alone, our Rehabilitation Centre is a real lifeline. It hits them hard when a volunteer comes for a week or two and then leaves just when they’re getting to know each other. 

For these reasons, we always ask for a commitment that is fair to our clients:

- You’ll work at the Rehabilitation Centre from 10am until 3pm on an agreed day each week.
- You’ll commit to at least three months with us.

If that sounds good to you, take a look at how to make it happen:

The Process

The first step is to get in touch! Then, a member of staff will call you to check a few of the basics, for example that you are an adult and can make a commitment to three months, one day each week between 10am-3pm. If all is well, we’ll then agree a date and time for you to come in and see our Rehabilitation Centre where all of our volunteering work takes place.

During the visit, we’ll talk you through everything and show you around.

After the visit, we encourage you to wait a little while to consider carefully whether this kind of volunteering role is for you.

If you still want to go ahead, there’s a little paperwork to do. We’ll ask you to complete an application form and provide two character references. You will understand that we have to protect our vulnerable clients.

If your application and references are OK, we will arrange for you to make a start!

You will get all the support you need so that you can give of your best!

Phil's Triple Triumph

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Phil Mitchell, a client in our Rehabilitation Centre, has obtained not one but three certificates in these computing subjects: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Digital Literacy and Alison I.T. Computer Training.

Commenting on the result of no less than three years of hard work and persistence, Phil says:

“Just because you have a brain injury doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Headway gives you the confidence to try your hardest. If you are prepared to do something, you might get frustrated sometimes, but when that happens, you have the people at Headway to help you through it, so it’s not like you are alone in a dark room. It took me three years. At first, I didn’t think I could do it, but it just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. These certificates are the proof of that.”

Congratulations Phil!
Phil and his Computing Certificates

One of Life’s Goal Scorers – Carl’s Story

Friday, April 24, 2015
If you think that Acquired Brain Injury is all bad news, you’ll be moved and inspired by this uplifting story from one of Headway Shropshire’s Rehabilitation Centre clients...

Carl leads a very active life. He’s always been that way and he probably always will be. It’s in his bones. In the past, Carl played football and took it pretty seriously by all accounts. He was even awarded player’s player of the year and manager’s player of the year. Aside from football, Carl enjoyed motocross and karting. Having a love of cars, one day he decided after a lot of soul searching to spend a little money on himself and buy what he calls his “selfish car” – the sports car of his dreams.  All in all, Carl was in good shape as he approached his 50th birthday, and enjoying a full life.

Carl’s go-kart and motocross bike

Of course, given that this is a Headway Shropshire article, you’re probably thinking that a momentous event is about to take place in Carl’s story, and you would be right. On 9th May last year, Carl had a serious stroke. He was admitted to hospital and remained there until July. He lost all movement down his left side.

Lying in hospital, with time to think, Carl started to assess the situation he was in. He realised it was serious; about serious as it could get. He didn’t really yet know how his recovery would go. He had visions of his motocross bike, his kart and his beloved sports car, all sitting idle, never to be used again, and started to see just how many changes he would need to make in his new life.

Most people who wake from a coma and find themselves with the effects of brain injury start off with feelings of denial, “I’ll soon be back to my old self”, or anger – the “why me?” routine. But unlike many people in that situation, Carl soon shrugged off such feelings and began to see his brain injury as just another of life’s challenges – his greatest challenge yet.

He began to apply the tremendous willpower and perseverance that he has always applied to his life. As before his brain injury, he began to regard his recovery as a process to be worked through, setting goals, deciding on the steps he needed to take to attain those goals, and working through those steps.

"finding new ways"

Of course, it was not as easy as it sounds. During those early weeks when Carl was in hospital, he knew deep down that there was a real chance that at any time he could hit the limits of what he would ever be capable of. But those thoughts did not stop him for a second.
Soon, Carl stayed in hospital only during the week, receiving on-going physiotherapy, and spending his weekends at home, beginning to relearn whatever skills he needed to live independently again. It was such a struggle. With overwhelming stiffness and loss of use of his left side, he had to learn how to wash and dress himself. On top of that, he had problems with balance, and spent many a weekend hauling himself up and down the stairs; learning new techniques and finding new ways forward.

During this time, it was Carl’s tremendous determination that kept him going, together with the help of his partner, work colleagues and family. He also found support in another guy who was going through the same thing. They egged each other on through difficult physiotherapy exercises and practice.
It’s a reflection of his success that in July, merely two months after his devastating stroke, Carl was assessed as ready to leave hospital. His physiotherapy would continue and does to this day, but now he was entering a new phase of life with a brain injury.

Back at home, Carl began to accept that his life would never be the same as it was before. For Carl, this does not mean “worse”, it just means “not the same”. He realised that playing team football was probably out, and that motocross was probably out. But he knew that his mobility was still improving, so he decided to set himself a couple of goals that he knew full-well may be out of his reach. But not knowing for sure whether a goal is possible never stops Carl from trying. Carl set out to get his mobility to the stage where he could experience the thrill of karting again. He also dreamed of driving his sports car again and set his sights firmly on that goal knowing full well that it might be out of his reach.

"back behind the wheel"

A huge amount of heartache, pain and sheer hard work followed, culminating in a driving assessment in Cannock, using an adapted car. Carl was shown how to operate the sophisticated wireless control pad attached to the steering wheel. It enables you to use all of the hand controls of the car, but with only one hand, and has a handle that is used to turn the steering wheel. Carl quickly got the hang of it - and was euphoric when he was assessed as fit to drive! Soon afterwards, Carl had his own car adapted in the same way as the one has drove during his assessment, and incredibly he soon found himself back behind the wheel of his cherished sports car! If you come to Headway Shropshire when Carl does, you will see it parked outside. Karting, Carl’s other goal, has also been attained. He goes regularly to “Full Throttle” in Stourbridge for a spin around the track. Knowing how determined Carl can be, I for one would not want to be on that same track!

Carl at the specially-adapted controls of his dream car.
As for the future, not one for resting on his laurels, Carl has yet more goals in his sights. He wants to play football again, not in a team, but with enough mobility and balance to kick a football around just for fun. He’s planning a sponsored 5km walk (splitting the proceeds between the hospital and Headway Shropshire), and he’s also planning an epic road trip, driving to Monaco to see the 2015 Formula One Grand Prix – a trip of more than 1,100 miles each way!

"not a sob story and not a sad story"

So Carl’s story is not a sob story and it’s not a sad story. It’s a story of life, peppered with determination, hope, optimistic realism and achievement.
Of course, Headway Shropshire cannot claim credit for the tremendous goals that Carl has achieved, but as for many with an acquired brain injury, our rehabilitation centre has offered a lifeline to Carl, providing not just relearning and re-ablement, but also social rehabilitation and support from people going through different stages of a similar journey. As Carl himself says, “I’d recommend Headway to anyone”.

Carl has kindly given his permission to publish this article on the Headway Shropshire website and in the Headway Shropshire newsletter.

Crafty Invention Revealed!

Monday, April 20, 2015
Geoff Hammond, a client in the Rehabilitation Centre at Headway Shropshire, has been working away on something very special in the woodwork room. It was all a bit hush-hush, with everything strictly on a need-to-know basis – until last week, that is, when Geoff revealed his marvellous creation to the world.

The photo shows Geoff next to the Wheelchair Accessible Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder, Mark I.  (I think we should call it the W.A.S.P Mark I)

The vertical bars are spaced to prevent access by those pesky squirrels, but allow access to birds of various species. The flat table area surrounding the feeder is designed to allow table-feeding birds to pick up the scraps, whereas the vertical caged feeder is designed for tits and other birds that prefer not to land.

The really ingenious part is the lift-out feeder. Because it is simply slotted in, and because the whole assembly is built at an appropriate height, Geoff can lift out the feeder whilst seated in his wheelchair, for easy refilling. 


Headway Shropshire's Pop-up Bakery!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yesterday turned out to be a very aromatic day in the Rehabilitation centre thanks to Rob Swift of Swift’s Bakery in Ludlow. It was the first of Rob’s bakery sessions designed to help our brain injury survivors to gain some useful baking experience.

Rob came armed not only with a huge tub of dough, but also with a selection of enticing Mediterranean ingredients such as fresh basil, tomatoes and cheese. In no time at all thanks to Rob’s encouragement and hands-on tuition, lumps of dough had been transformed into exotic bread roulades and rolls fit for a Michelin-starred restaurant! Then after a short but tantalising wait as the dough proved itself, into the ovens it went. After 20 agonising minutes, as the aroma of freshly-baked bread wafted throughout the Rehab Centre, it was time for the final reveal. Considering this session was the first of its kind at Headway Shropshire, the results were pretty spectacular as you can see from the photos.

A great time was had by all, and it proved to be a very successful morning, not least because the seven eager participants got to eat the results of their work!

Our thanks to Rob for making this happen.

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 01

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 01

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 02

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 03

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 04

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 05

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 06

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 07

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 08

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 09

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 10

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 11

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 12

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 13

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 14

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 15

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 16

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 17

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 18

Headway Shropshire Baking Session 19

We Need Volunteers Right Now!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Headway Shropshire Rehab Centre offers activities for people with an Acquired Brain Injury and it’s these activities that make a real difference to the quality of rehabilitation that we can offer. Volunteers play a vital role in helping us to provide the activities that our clients need, whether it’s artwork, games, reading or simply engaging in conversation. 

Volunteering at Headway is fulfilling, rewarding and fun – you get to see the results of your work in the faces of the people you are helping.  
We need more volunteers right now. Can you help?

We are looking for volunteers who:

- Are aged at least 18 because of the complex needs of our clients  
- Can make a regular commitment to work in the Rehabilitation Centre between 10am and 3pm, on the same day each week, for at least three months  
- Can work as part of a team  
- Are sociable and positive  
- Will respect disabled people’s identity, individuality and confidentiality  
- Will abide by our policies and procedures  

We can offer you:

- A unique and fulfilling volunteering experience  
  • - The opportunity to learn about Acquired Brain Injury  
  • - A friendly, welcoming and fun environment  
  • - Travel expenses up to £15.00 per week  


To safeguard our clients, all volunteers are interviewed, complete an application form and provide two character references. If you would like to volunteer at Headway Shropshire please phone on 01743 365271(Monday-Friday 9.00am-4.30pm) or email: volunteers@headwayshropshire.org.uk 

Debut Carols Event for Headway Shropshire

Monday, March 02, 2015
Although as we watch for the early signs of spring approaching and Christmas is now but a distant memory, we really couldn’t let this issue pass without sharing some photos of a wonderful event with you. Headway Shropshire’s first Carol Event.
We would like to thank everyone that attended and help make it one of the most wonderful events we have ever put on. And for all of you that attended I am sure you will want to join with me in thanking the star of the day, our very own Louisa, who sang so beautifully, both with us and in 2 magical solos that left many of us with a lump in our throat. Louisa created a very special kind of magic that day that made the event a joy to be at. For those of us who can’t sing, like myself she carried us through the songs beautifully and whilst we were allowed a break she sang us 2 of the most wonderful solo performances I have ever had the privilege to hear.. Louisa was accompanied by our very own Chief Executive, Jean Robinson on the keyboard, who I would also like to say a massive thank you too.
Whilst we can’t recreate the melodic ambiance of the day we can share some pictures with you, so enjoy!

Headway Shropshire Newsletters

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Headway Shropshire newsletter is distributed to members every quarter.


Below you can find links to the latest newsletters. Inside you can read what we’ve all been up to. There's news of recent and future events together with useful & interesting information & resources.


Please take a look to get a real feel for what Headway Shropshire does and why we do it.

Newsletter Autumn 2015


Newsletter Summer 2015

Newsletter Spring 2015

Newsletter Winter 2014

Newsletter Autumn 2014

Newsletter Summer 2014

Newsletter Spring 2014

Charity Football Match

Monday, September 01, 2014
Shropshire’s Fire & Rescue Service, along with members of the Shrewsbury Police Force, had decided that this year the proceeds from their charity football match would be donated to Headway Shropshire.  What a great surprise & what an even greater honour, that the emergency services of Shropshire would choose us to benefit from their efforts. We all know how hard these guys work to protect us, our homes & our community; so to find out that they would even give up some of their own free time to help a charity like ours was quite overwhelming.
The day of the big match arrived and the sun decided to shine on us & make for a glorious sunny summer afternoon. All were in good spirits, both supporters and players alike, we were all looking forward to the friendly game about to take place.

Now don’t get me wrong we all knew that for the Shrewsbury Police Force there was a matter of pride at stake, after their heavy defeat in the previous year’s charity football match. For the Fire Fighters there was the matter of an unbeaten record against the Police Force at stake. Just the second year into this wonderful annual charity event and there was all to play for, for both sides but we knew it would be friendly, that ambition and pride would not turn it into a game that was anything other than friendly!


“fashion disaster”


The match kicked off, there was a whistle for a fashion disaster early on. The Referee was struggling to establish who was on what Team, so the Police Force were forced to turn their shirts inside out due to both teams turning up in strips that were similar. I don’t think this has ever happened at Old Trafford but in a spirit of good sportsmanship no one objected to a quick shuffling of shirts. And the match resumed. I would bring you a full run down of the action but unfortunately I no longer knew who was who as the reversal of shirts meant the Police Force no longer had numbers & of course we were playing in a charity match not at Stamford Bridge so names were not on shirts either. I could give you a detailed run down on the Fire Service’s play on a shirt number basis but it does seem unfair to the Police Force, who I could not include due to the absence of said numbers! So instead I think I shall sum up the game briefly & then leave you to look through the photos taken by ‘The Snige’, that luckily so brilliantly capture the spirit of the game.

The Fire Service came out fighting early with a superb opening goal, leaving the Police goalie with little he could do but make the best of picking the ball graciously out of the net! The Police Force then found a new incentive to take it up a notch...they were defending their pride! And play they did, unfortunately, although they pulled back a goal, they didn’t have the secret weapon that the Fire Service did....the nippy number 9 who reminded me of an ex Shrewsbury Town Player, Luke Rodgers, who in his first spell at Shrewsbury Town was often referred to as fast as a whippet & as tenacious as a terrier! A description that really could equally describe the Fire Services number 9, he was so quick & determined, just an outstanding player. Fortunately, when asked for our man of the match I was relieved this was the case, because, although I believe everyone played their hearts out & making a great contribution to the match, it would have been tricky to pick a Police Force player as man of the match due to the number issue...we would have had to have given man of the match to ‘Medium’ of the Police Force if it weren’t for Number 9 of the Fire Service!


“unbeaten record”


After much enthusiasm and hard work the final result was a 2-1 win to the Fire Service, ensuring they kept their unbeaten record for this now annual charity event. It also ensured that the Fire Service could ridicule their rivals with an inflatable ‘dummy’ cup which they presented to them after they were presented the winner’s trophy! Either the Fire Service were completely convinced of their pending victory or just believers in being prepared to ridicule when given the chance, I just don’t know but it did ensure we all had a great giggle at the end & thankfully the Police Force were great sports & shared in the joke.


We not only want to sincerely thank our emergency service heroes for all the hard work they put in to making this a success or for the money that will be raised from this event but also for giving so many of our clients & staff a great day out. One client in particular was over the moon to be selected to give out the trophies after the match, I think Andy would like us to thank you on his behalf for making his day out really memorable, so thank you so much!



Headway Shropshire logo

Headway Shropshire

Holsworth Park

Oxon Business park



United Kingdom


Tel:   01743 365565

Fax:  01743 365563

Email: admin@headwayshropshire.org.uk

Headway Shropshire is a Registered Charity (No. 1100376) and is a Company Limited by Guarantee

(No. 4884834) registered in England.