What People Say…
From Mark and Tracey Laverick
In January 2011 my husband Mark suffered a severe stroke, hospitalising him for 5 months. He now requires 24/7 care & it undergoing rehabilitation to hopefully return some function to his right side & his cognitive ability. In July 2011 I was very fortunate & grateful to receive assistance from Headstart ABI Service. This has been in the form of a CSW (Simon) coming of a Monday to accompany Mark on outings. They can be anything from a trip to the beach to enjoy the sunshine to the local club where Mark is able to watch reruns on the Fox for the rugby league that he is passionate about.
At first Mark was a little hesitate to participate in these outings but when I explained to him that it allowed me to do some of the things I needed to do in the day he would go. Now when Monday comes he is outside waiting for Simon he loves the interaction that he is able to get & I can get on with what I need to in the day without a second thought to whether Mark is OK.
I am sure that without the assistance we have received through Headstart we wouldn’t be functioning as well as a family together. From Marks’ daughter Samantha…..”My dad goes out with a Headstart staff member and this means I have some time with mum and that Dad has something to enjoy.” Tracey Laverick
Headstart – A Snapshot from Tim Grant
Since the middle of 2007, I have been involved with Headstart ABI Service. That was as the frightening eighteen months, begun in February 2006, spent recovering after being on the receiving end of a semi-trailer began to wind down. Having spent some time at the Hunter Brain Injury Service (HBIS) from November 2006, I was then referred on to Headstart. This was exactly what I needed, as at that time I was still in recovery mode and was very much in need of the services it offers. Like many of my com-patriots in the world of rehabilitation, my world had been totally thrown upside down. In my absence, I had been torn away from all my old friends.
Meantime, life had carried on of its own accord, taking us all in different directions. Some went on to finish university and were now pursuing the dream job; others had met the love of their life and were joining hands in marriage; still others, more tragically, had passed away and left this world forever! As I emerged and sought to re-take my place, I found that my place was…well, not the same as it had been before. I had to find a new place.
Thankfully, I was directed on to Headstart by some well-meaning staff member of HBIS. I still remember one of the first activities I was involved with- the Music Group. With the Rec worker Chad, myself and two other chaps helped write, record and design the album cover for a song. It makes me smile when I think of how Kynan- cheerful and madly grinning Kynan!- so joyfully sang about how “I left my bum-bag at the gym!” It’s a shame there were no executives from Sony there that day- if any had seen our brilliantly designed cover and heard our clever and witty lyrics, they would have snapped us up for sure!
In the months that followed, I often went along to the activities offered to Headstart’s Consumers. (As a side note here: I soon learnt that ‘Consumers’ is really the term to use for Headstart-folk- ‘Patients’ sounds far too clinical, ‘Brethren’ sounds a bit Amish and ‘Homey-Gees’…well, that’s never been truly accepted by mainstream Australia, anyway) Picnics out at Blackbutt Reserve? I went along and enjoyed the scenery. More activities with the Music Group? I was definitely in! BBQs at momentous points in the year? I was there, enjoying the food and frivolity.
By 2008, I had joined the Headstart Community Education Team (CET). As I was not yet working, this was a great thing to be involved with. With the group, I had to work as part of a team, be punctual and always conduct myself professionally. Being part of this team prepared me for re-entering the work-force. The many talks I was to give gave me a better understanding what had happened to me and reminded me of the marvellous complexity of the brain. This was also the year that I enrolled at Hunter Street Tafe, Newcastle.
At the urging of my mother, I sat an interview for and was accepted into the ‘Diploma of Communication’. This proved to be a good choice, as it reminded me of what the love of reading I possessed since a young boy has created- a knack for writing! The Tafe course also had a good array of areas of Communication it considered. Learning about ‘Conducting Interviews ‘and ‘Research Techniques’ provided me with skills I have been able to use in years of late. One course in particular, ‘Web-Design’, allowed me to funnel my learning into gently nudging along Headstart’s web-site. Once I started to exercise my writing again, I began to take it more seriously. Whether contributing to Headstart’s Newsletter Newslink, frequently writing for The Loft’s Inzine and composing a poem about something (or someone) that took my fancy, I was always scribbling something down! In the years after, I gained valuable periods of work experience working for places like the Singleton Argus, Hunter Lifestyle and Mineral Resources. Later on I began a book about brain injury, wanting to better understand myself and to help the plights of others.
As I reflect on the years that have just gone by, I see that my involvement with Headstart has been crucial. Through the support it gave when needed and allowing me to contribute in the way I could best, it helped me forge a new identity. By finding things I could be part of, it helped me understand what I can offer to this world. If you are reading this article, I suspect you will probably be one of two people – either a person who has acquired a brain injury, or a caring family member who is seeking help and wishes to know more. Whichever you are, I encourage you – please take the helping hand that is offered!
Yes, brain injury is a terribly dark and foreboding time, and not every answer will surely solve the problem. Even so, you can still count on this certainty- seek in the right places, and help and support can be found to help you weather the storm.
Chin up friend, and soldier on – Know that you are not yet done!
Thoughts from Georgeann Taylor
My name is George Taylor. I have been a consumer with Headstart for nearly 2 years. Headstart helped move me out of a nursing home and live independently. My support workers help me get out and do physio, shopping and any other outside activities. My support workers are all lovely. Thank you Headstart.
From Dayne Robertson……
Hi, my name is Dayne and this is my journey with Headstart.
At age 16 I started having seizures. By the age of 25 I was having over 80 seizures a day and was house bound even if I got out of bed. I had lost all my confidence and only left my house with a family member because I did not trust anyone else to help look after me.
In January 2008 I had a major operation. A Hemispherectomy removal of the right side of my brain. The operation was a success but I was in rehab for the next year as the operation had left me paralysed down my entire left side.
While at rehab my social worker suggested Headstart which was the best thing I could have done.
Headstart taught me how to socialize with people and got me back out into the community. I joined Headstarts singing group which was lots of fun but also taught me to speak clearly.
I joined the karate group which helped with my core strength and I can now walk and stand up straight. Headstart takes me to the gym every Friday. This activity keeps me fit and strong.
My proudest achievement is being selected into the Hunter Academy of Sport for Archery. I truly love this sport and it was Headstart that introduced me to it through a social activity. I may shoot from my wheelchair but I compete against able bodied people. I have been doing Archery seriously now for 3 years and hope to try out for the Para Olympics.
Headstart has given me the confidence to go out by myself or with friends, talk to people, make new friends and help make my sporting dreams come true.
A very big thank you to Headstart!