How Headway brought me back from isolation following my brain injury

How Headway brought me back from isolation following my brain injury
Marc Dwyer-Canton with a sculpture he created in Headway.

A CORK man has praised the organisation who helped restore his confidence after a brain bleed took his life on a frightening turn.

Marc Dwyer-Canton from Fairhill was among Headway service users appealing for donations in aid of their new brain injury facility in Carrigrohane. The charity is calling on the public to support them in making their dream of a new state-of-the-art brain injury facility a reality.

Marc, who now lives in Belgooly, said it was a bleed in his brain that led to him using their services.

"I was going for an afternoon walk on a Sunday afternoon in Belgooly," he said. "All of a sudden I began to feel dizzy and stumbled. I didn't take any notice and went to bed after growing very tired. The next morning I went to work I informed my employer that I needed to visit my doctor. When I saw the GP he immediately realised something was very wrong."

However, Marc remained unfazed. "I had got a cut on my elbow shortly before my symptoms so I thought my symptoms might have been down to blood poisoning."

"I thought I'd be going for tests and returning to work that evening, but it didn't happen like that. I had offered to drive but the doctor called the company so a colleague could drive me. I had an MRI that very same day which was almost unheard of."

It was only after an overnight stay in hospital that Marc realised the extent of his injury.

"The doctor went away to get the results which revealed that I had a bleed in my brain. I was still able to walk but had a weakness on my left side. I didn't notice that my speech had slowed down and there were long gaps between words. My thinking was much slower even though I was unaware of it at the time."

Adjusting to life after a brain injury was a huge challenge for Marc.

"I was allowed to go home on the Wednesday. The doctor told me it was a mild stroke. It wasn't physically obvious in the long term on a physical level but the bleed had taken its toll inside my head. My memory was very poor as well as my cognitive reasoning. I forgot the little things I was able to do before like how to change a plug. I no longer remembered the names of my colleagues at the factory.

"Fatigue was the hardest part. If I got anxious or worried the brain needed sleep. That could happen any time of the day."

Marc initially found the experience isolating.

"I stopped going out socially. If I was in a noisy area my brain would be unable to process the information. I was unable to converse with more than one person at a time. It was very isolating. Even if I was with my family and they were having a conversation I never felt part of it. If my wife and I went out it had to be to a quiet place that was like relaxing in our own sitting room."

He found the lack of understanding around brain injury troubling.

"Some have no idea how to talk to a person with a brain injury. It's like they are afraid so don't know how to talk to you. They'll often slow down their own speech to compensate. There's this misconception that I won't understand what they're saying."

Headway offered Marc an escape through art which he continues to thrive in today.

"The brain injury left me unsure about everything but Headway were very understanding. They helped me cope. Much of the focus was on getting involved. When the men's shed started up I jumped at the chance. They treated me as a person and not as a brain injury. They offered a number of classes from silk printing to flower arranging. I created a lot of sculptures there which is an area I have a huge interest in."

The organisation also inspired him to get involved in public speaking.

"I was never good at after-dinner speeches even before my stroke but I recently spoke publicly at UCC about what the organisation has done for me. My attitude is that if I can introduce just one person to Headway it will make a huge difference in their life."

For more information on how to donate to Headway's new project visit www.headway.ie or call 1800 400 478.

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