Headway Hertfordshire - supporting people affected by brain injury

Phillip Good's Story

Microlight propeller cut through back of Phil's head.


It happened in France in March 1998. Phil, an experienced
pilot, was standing near his microlight which had taken him
to Le Touquet; he was doing his return pre-flight checks. Phil
didn't notice the throttle was wide open and the microlight
suddenly went out of control dragging Phil round the airfield
and the blades hit him in the head.


The emergency services airlifted him to hospital in Lille - a
hospital specialising in major trauma - and an urgent
message went to Phil's family.


'We were flown to Lille as quickly as possible,' his wife
Heather said. A police car took the family to meet a plane
sent for them. Eventually they reached Lille and the doctors
told them they did not expect Phil to live and the family
should 'go in and say goodbye.' However, they added that if
he did survive the night, they would operate the following
day to repair his skull.


He lay in an induced coma for six weeks and two days, and
then he came to. Semi-conscious, he was flown back to
hospital in the UK.


'In hospital the first thing I noticed was that I couldn't sit up
any more and I was paralysed all down my left side.'
He knew Heather, but found it difficult to recognise family
members or friends who came to visit him. 'He relied on me
to tell him who was who,' Heather said. 'Phil wasn't aware for
several weeks what had happened to him or the extent of
what had happened.'


With massive brain injury, Phil had numerous problems. He
had to re-learn how to do absolutely everything. He couldn't
read or write, he couldn't see clearly any more, he had short term
memory loss and co-ordination difficulties, but his
speech was not affected.


'In France I was given some invaluable advice,' Heather
said. 'I was told that as soon as we got back to the UK I
should contact an organisation called Headway. I knew that I
needed to learn all about brain injury and get any support I
could as this was life changing for us all.’


Phil came home in November 1998. ‘He had trained himself
to walk, and found he could get around the house with a
stick. But when we go out, he needs to be in a wheelchair.’
'It was when we went to Headway that the recovery really
started,' Heather said.


Phil still attends Headway's Re-connect programme that he
finds very helpful. 'We all had different problems, but we
were all in it together,' he said. 'We used to work together to
try to help each other out. What was good, I knew I was not
alone.'


Heather said 'the peer support was vital. They encouraged
each other, motivated each other in the workshops.’


Heather has been a volunteer with Headway for the past 15
years and she has played a key part in the organisation's
development. 'The help Headway gives is not just for those
injured but also for their families. We can better understand
what has happened to those we love. Then we can explain
that to family and friends because those injured do change.
Phil changed. The man we got back was not the man who
flew off for what should have been a routine one-day trip.’


Heather finds that the high spots in her volunteering are
when talks to relatives of people who suffered major brain
injury.

'They have usually heard that their loved one won't be
able to do this, or this or that, and I can tell them that
hospitals don't know everything, and Phil is a living proof of
what can be achieved. I tell them there is always hope, there
is help out there for them.'


As a Headway volunteer Heather helps with the HABIT
rehab programme, she offers support for carers and helps
out at social events like coffee mornings or cinema group.

Both Phil and Heather give talks and help in training
professionals understand what it's like living with Brain
Injury.


‘Being in a group, with wheelchairs or whatever, people don't
stare so much, and as a group we can always help each
other out when there's a problem. We facilitate the event
which encourages social interaction and reduces isolation for
both survivor and carer and we can have fun and a laugh
just like the rest of them.'


Heather urges others to become a volunteer. 'I always say it
is the best job I have ever had,' she declared, 'even though
you don't get paid for it. The contentment you get is when
you see a smile on the face of someone who doesn't have a
lot to smile about.'