In 2015, I became a Trustee of a very special charity called Headway Somerset, who support individuals with brain injuries and their families. A brain injury is a term used to describe brain damage caused by any event that happens during or after birth. Brain injuries can be caused by a traumatic event; such as a blow to the head, a fall, an assault or a car accident. They can also be caused by illness and infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, or other causes such as a heart attack that can starve the brain of oxygen. Across Somerset, about 2000 people every year are admitted to hospital with a brain injury. Many others may have injuries, such as small blows to the head, and may never seek medical attention despite experiencing symptoms for a long time afterwards (such as persistent headaches, difficulty concentrating and problems with their vision). Although most of these individuals will go on to make a full recovery as the brain heals, there are some who will experience symptoms for a long time after their injury and sometimes for life.

Our brains are vital for so many daily functions from keeping us alive to allowing us to interact with the world around us. Brain injuries can cause temporary or permanent changes in the way we think, our ability to physically move around the world and changes in our behaviour and emotions. People may find themselves forgetting things more easily, finding it difficult to concentrate or focus on more than one thing at a time. People may have extreme tiredness, trouble speaking, trouble moving their limbs, become angry and behave aggressively when they didn’t before, or become depressed and anxious. Sometimes injuries (particularly ones that are caused by damage to the front of the brain) can lead to problems with planning and making decisions. Therefore, the impact of brain injury can be profound, not only for the individual with the injury but also for family members.

Headway Somerset supports people in many different ways. They have day centres in Taunton and Bridgwater, as well as other locations in Somerset where individuals can come for rehabilitation and a chance to meet with others who have also experienced injuries. Brain injury can come with personality changes, which means people sometimes lose their existing friends after their injury, so making new friendships is really important. The centres also give family members a break from day-to-day caring. The charity also offers an outreach service, where support workers will come to people’s homes to work with clients and their families. Other services include a social group that enables individuals to have day trips together, and the hospital liaison service that helps to support families when their loved one is in hospital and support them through the transition back to life at home. A new service that is being introduced currently is a buddying system to provide day-to-day support to individuals at home. Headway Somerset are currently looking for people to become buddies or volunteers to help with events and activities.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Headway Somerset, and as a result I have embarked on a year of 30 sponsored challenges to raise money. Due to COVID, I am a little behind, but will be extending my year until the end of 2021. So far, I have donated my wages for a day, received 30th anniversary donations for the charity and done a sponsored swim (among other things). In September I am doing a charity run and in October I will be dressing up to raise money. People can vote for my costume by sponsoring any amount of money they would like. The costume with the most donations will win. If you are interested in taking part then please visit my JustGiving page for more details, or to sponsor me for any of my upcoming events:

Written by Alyson Norman

May 2024