15th June, 2017
It took quite a long time for the hospital to diagnose what was wrong with me. I was twelve years old and was having headaches and passing out and losing weight but it wasn’t until I attended an eye clinic for my vision problems that they began to properly investigate. They noticed that I was having trouble looking up and so they sent me for a scan. It turned out that I had seven tumours, all in the same part of the brain.
It was a terrible shock for me and for my family. I had a shunt put in my head and had radiotherapy which shrank the tumours quite a lot although I still have them. I stopped going to school and became quite isolated because I didn’t see my old friends. Most people couldn’t really understand what was happening to me. I missed the whole of year 8 but started going for a couple of hours each day in year 9. I got tired very quickly and so I had to build up my stamina slowly.
I have challenges to face such as short term memory loss and I also struggle to recall certain parts of my past. It upsets me not to be able to remember everything, and I will have to be on medication for the rest of my life, but I have overcome a lot of things. I was told that I would never be able to drive, but I was assessed a few years ago and I was found to be perfectly competent. It is great that I am able to get myself around. It’s hard to always have to ask for help.
When I was coming to Headway Cambridgeshire as a client I gained a lot. The friendships that I have made have been very important to me but I also learnt a great deal about brain injury and how to manage it. I have learnt cooking and gardening and painting, all skills that have boosted my confidence and helped me to look after myself.
I have now made the transition from client to volunteer at the Headway Hub in Fulbourn. It feels as if I have taken a great step forward. I look after the garden, trim hedges and keep the borders tidy. It is a source of great satisfaction to me to be part of making something better. Just keeping the garden in check or opening the door or making a cup of tea for someone means that I am making a difference. I don’t mind not getting paid. I want to give my time to something worthwhile.
I don’t regret the things I haven’t been able to do in my life. What is important to me is to feel that I am making a positive contribution. I like helping people and seeing them improve. For some people getting back to how they were before their injury is impossible, but there is always hope and small steps forward can make a great difference.
In general people don’t know a lot about brain injury. If you look at me you wouldn’t necessarily know about my condition and sometimes people can make judgements about others. Brain injury takes many forms and affects people in different ways. I think everyone should become more educated about brain injury and be tolerant of each other.
I want to carry on volunteering. The best thing about it is that you are with other people. All you need is patience, the ability to listen, some knowledge to share and a willingness to get stuck in. I recommend it to everyone.
Luke Martin, 28
“ The Hospital Brain Injury Co-ordinator became someone who absolutely understood how I felt, I didn’t need to explain. I could talk about my fears and worries. She was such a great support through the difficult days, but could also celebrate the small step successes, which was important to me. ”