This time of year inevitably brings reflection, coupled with looking ahead to pastures new.
So I thought I would share all of my goals and aims for the next 12 months.
This blog is a useful memory tool for me; enabling me to look back through past experiences, and reflect upon them, hopefully learning something useful, to move forward.
My main goal is to get back to work full time as a rugby journalist, or as close to full time as medically possible. Especially with the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015. The good news, as I look back through old calendars or blogs, is my working hours have increased.
I used to go into the office for an hour a week to write up these blogs, as a slow, gradual way of beginning my graded return to work. Now I do two mornings a week, consisting of three hours a shift, as well as covering a rugby match on Saturdays. I love the busyness working brings and the purpose I am regaining in my life.
I love my job/career as a rugby journalist here in Gloucestershire, so I'm keen to resume it as quickly as possible, plus repay the fantastic faith shown in me by my bosses.
I'm also keen to regain as much use of my left-hand side as possible.
I could not be prouder to be able to walk down the street without a limp anymore. This just shows me I am making progress and therefore I can definitely achieve the rest of my goals, as, if you forgive my big-headed moment, I was once told by doctors I'd never be able to move my left-hand side.
I'm absolutely over the moon to be able to defy the doctors, without trying to sound too arrogant; hopefully this moment of glee will not come back to bite me in the backside in future. This year a big focus for me will be typing with my left hand because this so far has eluded me.
I was going to make a few New Years' resolutions but Amy is doing something different this year which consists of remembering only one word so I decided quickly this was for me too! It is a project created by Ali Edwards where you pick one word and filter it through into every aspect of your everyday life.
The word I have chosen is "positive" to be more, well, positive obviously. It is good to choose a word that is quite open. I want to make sure I am a positive influence on people's lives, but also to see the positive in situations.
It's not a specific resolution, it is the starting point where change will naturally occur. The idea is to focus on this word for a year and it will become a part of who you are for, well, the rest of your life.
Choosing your word is important. Amy's and mine came quite naturally, but we did think about some others such as
"brave", "focus", "balance", "deliberate", "discover", "embrace", "cleanse", "relax", "encourage", "calm", "growth" and "purpose"
but finally decided our original two.
I'm excited about this new way of thinking and hope it makes a great impact on mine and Amy's lives.
This time of year inevitably brings reflection, coupled with looking ahead to pastures new.
As it is the festive period, I could not resist doing a blog about Christmas.
The first thing I must say, to get it out of the way, is I love Christmas. Not because it means receiving presents. But because it means coming together with the people you love, without trying to sound too cheesy. As I've mentioned before, I've lived all over the country, but I've always returned home for Christmas in Leicester.
However, this Christmas is different for me and it has nothing to do with my brain injury, which I will come onto later, but because we are down in Poole to celebrate with Amy's family, as I mentioned in last week's blog. We will pop up to Leicester at some point to see my family, but it will be the first Christmas Day I have had not waking up in my parents house on Christmas morning but I'm told by Amy that is not the case, which again shows you the reliability of my memory. It is in fact the second Christmas I have spent away from my family, but it feels like the first.
What matters most to me though, is Amy seeing all of her family and loved ones, as much as possible, as she has made the unbelievable commitment of moving her whole life away from her home, to Cheltenham, to be with, and look after, me; so I would like to make her happy, as, if you pardon my language, she works bloody hard; on her course, at Waitrose, and looking after/worrying about me.
As I've talked about before in a previous blog about Amy's birthday back in August, it is difficult for me planning anything, or looking ahead, but especially what presents to get her, as this function of my brain was damaged by the bleed, but I am not making an excuse. Plus she is a woman, and as I've learned growing up with two women in my life, they are tricky creatures to please! But after all, Amy has the best present in me anyway! Only joking, so yet again, I had to enlist the help of my amazing sister Laura, all the way from Leicester, so a massive thank you must go to her for helping me order all of the presents and arranging to have them delivered to my parents' house in Leicester, so Amy would have no idea what I had got her, but it did not matter anyway as we were down in Poole for Christmas and travelled up to Leicester a few days later. Laura also bought a lovely big festive sack to put all of Amy's presents in and gave me a numbered list to remind me what I had got her, as I firstly, struggle to remember what I had got her, and because I bought her so many presents to make her feel special, but I did come up with all of the present ideas myself!
It doesn't matter anyway, because Amy has already given me the best possible present anyway by sticking with me throughout all of this, still believing in me and still wanting to be with me, without trying to sound too soppy again, but it's Christmas so I'm allowed to!
I also wanted to say a massive thank you for reading these blogs. I am often overwhelmed by how many people have read them and hopefully they have helped someone see the evidence of life after brain injury because there is. Although I still need reminding in my moments of doubt, I need no reminding at Christmas, it's at this time of the year you realise how truly lucky you are and I know how lucky I am.
I hope you have a very merry Christmas.
A year ago this week I suffered my first fit, and I have to be fit-free for a year until I can drive a car again. Unfortunately, I had another fit in September, which I have mentioned before, which reset the clock again.
This means Amy has had to do all the driving for the last year, which is unfair, as she has enough on her plate with her PGCE, working at Waitrose, being my carer and life in general.
I know Amy worries about me having a fit every second of the day it seems. If I make a funny noise in one room, she runs in from the other room to check I'm okay. I think it is because both fits I have had were so hard for her to see and, also, we have no idea why they happened, nor do doctors. It is a barrier to my independence, not just driving, but my confidence and more so Amy's confidence in the fact I am safe when I'm alone.
I cannot wait to reach September without having a fit, to get me back behind the wheel and give Amy a break, for once. But also the longer time passes without a fit, I feel much more confident about my own independence and safety.
With Christmas on the horizon, we will spend it with Amy's family down in Poole, in Dorset, which we are both really looking forward to. We will head to Leicester at some point to see my family, giving you an insight into the standard festive friction between couples and the inevitable question of where to spend Christmas, and with whose family.
Last year we were in Leicester, which I have absolutely no recollection of, which is a bit sad if I think about it, because I love Christmas. I could not tell you what presents I got from anyone last year.
However, as I am not allowed to drive, it means Amy will have to do all of the driving down to Poole, and then back to Cheltenham, as well as driving to Leicester, and back, so her little Micra will certainly rack up the miles over the holiday period.
I have said recently how much Amy does for me, and doing all of the driving is certainly up there on the list of jobs. Anytime we need to go food shopping, or to the shops for anything at all, or even to a doctors, or hospital appointment, which have become far too frequent, it is Amy who must get us there in her car.
As well as this, I actually enjoyed driving, and it is another example of regaining independence.
I learned to drive later in life so I had got used to not having to rely on cars to get around places, which was interesting seeing as I've lived all over the country in places such as my home city Leicester, Liverpool for university, and then Stoke, Birmingham, Worcestershire and Cheltenham, all for work.
This list of homes clearly shows you how independent I have been over the years; leaving home for university in Liverpool aged 18, before my career as a sports journalist took me to the other places. So recently, I have definitely had to get used to relying on other people, which has been difficult for me.
At least I get to ride the bus to Headway by myself on Wednesdays though, which always fills me with pride.
Never before have I seen the true value and significance of independence, and it is this goal I am desperate to get back, as soon as possible, so Amy can concentrate and focus on herself, for once! Like she should do.
I apologise if I repeat myself in this week's blog, but last Friday, Amy and I attended the Headway awards Luncheon at The Dorchester Hotel, on Park Lane, in London; yes the same Park Lane which is one of the more expensive purple properties on the Monopoly board! Which gives you an idea of how posh an awards do it was! We felt incredibly honoured to be able to attend such an event, and it was amazing to rub shoulders with the likes of so many inspirational people, such as James Cracknell, who handed out the awards; admittedly I would have to stand on a chair to rub shoulders with the likes of him, as he is considerably taller than me.
But I felt such an incredibly proud boyfriend watching my amazing girlfriend Amy go up on stage to collect her special award for being one of the Carers Of The Year, she didn't win the top prize but she knows she is our winner anyway. I think meeting James Cracknell was winning enough! She still received a framed certificate which now stands proudly on the chest of drawers in our bedroom, so we can see it every day when we wake up in the morning, as if I needed anymore evidence to show me how awesome Amy is. I know I have spoken many words about how amazing Amy has been, but I really haven't done her justice. I won't attempt to explain everything she does, or has done for me, because there are not enough words, just like there are not enough words to thank her for everything she has done for me.
She is quite simply an inspiration; studying a tough, and demanding, course such as the PGCE, which requires doing work every night at home following a full day's work at a school; it is certainly not for the faint hearted! As well as this, she also works eight hours a week at Waitrose, on Monday and Friday evenings, but, as is so typical of her, she works behind the scenes in the online shopping department, so don't go running around Waitrose trying to find her!
So, as well as studying to be a primary school teacher, and working at Waitrose; she is also my carer, and I hope you will pardon my language momentarily, but she is a bloody good one at that. Always looking out for me, never putting herself first; she always tells me a story from her university days in London, where she was studying drama, when she always preferred to be the supporting lady, not the leading lady, and that sums her up perfectly.
What was also nice after everything to have happened was to have both of our families together in the same room at the awards, enjoying a few laughs, instead of being separated by the 200 miles between the South coast and the East Midlands.
We are extremely lucky to come from the families we do and even though it was Amy picking up the award, it certainly felt like a collective effort, as so many people have been involved with my recovery, both in a hands-on way, or an emotionally supportive one.
Also, as we do not get to see our families so much, it was just nice to spend a bit of time with them, especially with Christmas on the horizon.
Both Amy and I are so thankful to come from amazing families; a fact we recognise even more after everything to have happened. So it was lovely to spend such a great day with the people we love so much.
Seeing as we were in the capital, we also took the opportunity to visit Amy's brother, Connor, who is studying to be a doctor at St George's University in Tooting, which was great. So the whole trip truly was a family affair and a happy one at that. We just wish we could have shared it with all of the many people who have helped us so much on our journey. But they were there with us in spirit. Also we were already the biggest party ever to attend with a nominee!
This Friday, December 5, is a special day for Amy, and I, as she has been nominated for Carer Of The Year at the Headway Annual Awards Luncheon, at The Dorchester Hotel, in London.
So I thought it warranted an extra special blog, which I admit, is longer than normal, so I apologise, but it's worth it, so stick with me.
I could write millions of words about how incredible Amy has been, but I don't want to bore you, so I'm leaving it to the person who nominated her, my sister Laura, which meant a lot to us.
Before I continue, I'll tell the story of how Laura broke the news to me: last August, it was Amy's 23rd birthday, and to show their appreciation for everything Amy has done for me, my family threw her a surprise party, at my family home in Leicester.
Now, I'll tell you a little secret about Amy, which not many people know: her favourite food is buffet food; crisps, peanuts, quiches etc so, of course, there was a buffet.
Laura took me down my parents' garden to tell me she had nominated Amy and she had been chosen as the top three nominations for the carer of the year award and then, she told me she was going to announce it to Amy later that afternoon but she wanted me to know first, so I could release all of my emotions, you know, have a big cry, (again!) to get it all out of my system, I would love to say this was down to medication, or the result of my brain injury, but it was sheer pride. Pride to know Amy, but more importantly, pride to call her my girlfriend.
I cried a little but, eventually, pulled it together, thank god!
Back to the nomination:
Please state why you think your nominee deserves a Headway Award:
Laura: When my brother Will, suffered a massive subarachnoid haemorrhage in March 2013, he and his girlfriend had been together for just over a year. The prognosis for Will was bleak. If he survived the first few days after his life-saving operation, he would be paralysed down his left-hand side permanently. They expected he would be a different person, who may not recognise his family, let alone his girlfriend. Amy stayed by his side from day one.
At 21, Amy was young to have such a huge responsibility on her shoulders, but not once did she question her future with Will, or her love for him. She put her ambitions to be a teacher on hold to dedicate herself to Will’s recovery.
Will spent five months in hospital and rehabilitation. During this time, Amy was with him everyday, often going to work part-time in the morning in Poole and then driving an hour to his rehabilitation hospital in Salisbury, just to support him.
When Will was released home from hospital, Amy moved her life to
Cheltenham to be with him and look after him. It was tough. It was the first time Amy had lived away from home on her own - and she was his carer. Amy has put her life, and teaching studies on hold; to make sure she has been there every step of the way for Will’s recovery, sacrificing her own hopes and ambitions to be a teacher to ensure Will had the best chance.
Everyday Amy makes sure Will is okay before herself. She has tirelessly devoted hours to his physical rehabilitation, taking Will on long walks around Cheltenham, swimming and, more recently, to the gym. She organises, and makes sure, he attends all of his hospital/doctors appointments. Amy has worked hard with Will to get him back to work, fulfilling his goals about returning to work as a rugby journalist at the local paper. Amy has to do all the driving and with Will’s family in Leicester, and Amy’s family in Bournemouth; this means long hours behind the wheel, but Amy never complains.
Amy was due to begin a PGCE in August 2013, but deferred for a year to devote herself to Will's recovery. She began last September but only after making sure Will was safe and had completed his own personal goals.
Will suffers with memory problems and some physical limitations on his left-hand side but his recovery has been nothing short of a miracle from the original prognosis. Amy encourages him everyday to not let his brain injury dictate who he is, or how they live their life. There have been setbacks, but Amy and Will have approached these with the same determination they have approached everything else; without fuss and with sheer hard work.
Will is far down the road to recovery, but still has some way to go. Amy is an outstanding carer who deserves recognition for the selfless way she has devoted herself and her life to Will’s recovery and their ongoing future while managing to continue working part-time at Waitrose and training to become a teacher.
Will: I would just like to add my thanks and pride for knowing Amy, let alone have the honour to call her my girlfriend.
She has been my hero, my lifesaver, and, award or not, always will be.
I'll never be able to put into words my gratitude and admiration for her, but I'll try: thank you Amy.
Adjusting to life after a brain injury, it has its ups and downs lets say. Hope you enjoy my ramblings. Will