Tom is an incredibly strong, kind, courageous, positive and hilarious guy. In this video Tom shares his life before and after his brain injury.
What an amazing weekend. We headed to Glenmore on the other side of Melbourne for a two day family retreat organised by Heads Together for ABI. Four hours in the car, stopping three times in the first hour I was wondering if it was worth the effort. Within five minutes of walking in I decided the answer to that question was yes! The first person I met, I plan on knowing for a long time. We have mutual friends, live close and her youngest and my eldest are the same age and both have ABIs from similar circumstances.
The amazing volunteers treated everyone like family. Isabelle and Grace were in their element. Our children turned free ranged and were looked after by the village. It gave the true meaning of it takes a village to raise a child.
We met amazing families who were amazingly resilient, courageous in the face of tragedy, hardship and plain bad luck. I met people who embraced their new type of normal. The expectance was oozing, with our children beaming from this vibe despite the lack of sleep. This made me see I need to embrace, learn, educate myself and others. I’m semi lost with my purpose in life, just maybe this is the path I need to go down.
Hey i’m Reece. I was in a car accident in 2007 and have since had an ABI. The injury has since had quite the impact on my life, both positive and negative.
Let’s start with the negative, I suffer from fatigue and have difficulty with concentration, I find it difficult to process new information and also too much information.
Now for some positivity, I have attended Heads Together for ABI camps since 2007 and have been volunteering at the camps since 2014. I finished year 12 in 2011 and i am currently studying nursing which i have almost completed.
I suffered a stroke at the age of six in 1999.
Since then I have had many struggles and triumphs. My struggles include learning to do everything one handed, as a result of my stroke I now have hemiplegia which means I do not have full use of my right arm and leg. I also struggle with fatigue, anxiety and memory issues. I especially struggled with my memory issues through my schooling and VCE years, I have also struggled with my sense of identity and finding my place and goals within this challenge that I was presented.
Now at 23 years old, I have also seen many triumphs throughout this time. I volunteer at Heads Together for ABI which has not only pushed me to strive for more but has pushed me to want more. I have learnt to do everything one handed, learnt to ride a 2-wheeled bike despite my balance issues, learnt to drive a car and completed VCE. I am now working as a carer for other young adults with acquired brain injuries.
“What is Heads Together?” – a question I get asked every time I pack my face paint, sleeping bag and best ‘get dirty’ sneakers before camp. Also a question that can be difficult to answer succinctly, because I think Heads Together means so many different things to many different people.
It’s a community where you can be celebrated for your unique individual talents, and can be inspired by the endless abilities of those around you. It’s an opportunity to play silly games and have double helpings of dessert. It’s also a place where you can feel safe to share thoughts, feelings and challenging experiences without fear of judgment.
Heads Together is the best kind of family. One that’s loud and crazy and fun; but that also knows how to sit quietly and listen and to give one heck of a hug when it’s needed most.
My more recent foray into the Heading Out events has broadened my Heads Together experience for the better. I leave every lunch feeling invigorated (and full!), having had the opportunity to share delicious food, terrible jokes and crazy stories with a group of such inspiring individuals.
For me, Heads Together is my reminder of what people can achieve regardless of the obstacles put in front of them. It’s my prompt to recall that it’s okay to be vulnerable at times, and to lean on others around you. Not least of all, camp provides me with an opportunity to reflect on my persisting fear of top bunks.
But hey, that’s just my Heads Together. What does your Heads Together mean to you?
What you learnt about families and acquired brain injury since volunteering with Heads Together?
Since participating in the heads together camps I have come to understand that an ABI is not always a visible injury and can come in many shapes and forms and effect people in many different ways.
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer role?
The opportunity to sit down and share a cuppa tea with anyone who is up for a chat knowing that it is providing a break from what can be a stressful life for some.
How has heads together changed what you do in your everyday life?
It hasn’t changed me but it has definitely reinforced the notion that you should never judge anyone. The camp values of acceptance and respect is such a great thing to reinforce when back in your everyday life.
What has been most unexpected about volunteering for heads together?
I never used to drink tea until camp! I didn’t think I had anything to offer as a volunteer with no previous experience in ABI or the health field in general. This didn’t matter because all I needed to offer was a pair of ears and to live by the camp values.
I’ve had an ABI since 2003. I was hit by a car while crossing a street and spent 2 months in hospital. It has been 13 years and I am still dealing with the consequences. I get tired easily, I find it hard to concentrate and I can be very emotional at times.
I was very lost after my car accident because I didn’t know anyone else with an ABI. Then I found Heads Together camp. I met others with an ABI and made friends. I have been a volunteer on the ABI team since 2013 and I am now volunteering behind the scenes of Heads Together for ABI as well. Heads Together for ABI as a whole has changed my life.
The initial positive change was attending the weekend camps, but being more involved in Heads Together for ABI has inspired me and motivated me beyond what anything ever has. My volunteering and opportunity to get to know families of people with an ABI has helped me understand myself better and has assisted me in discovering my dream career: Nursing.
Amazing words of advice from one of our camp families. “Reach high, don’t give up and keep trying”. Chelsea and her mum tell her inspiring story of recovery after an accident at the age of 5 left her with a serious brain injury.
Chelsea’s achievements and the support of her incredible family help to inspire other victims of road trauma on the road to recovery. Go Chelsea!
O’Brien family generously sharing their story on 7.30 Report, raising awareness of Acquired Brain Injury.