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 have 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.
I first heard about the magic of Heads Together through a colleague and was intrigued to find out more. Working as an OT for adults with an ABI, it was relevant to my interests and work. I was keen to learn more about families who have experienced an ABI.
I enjoy volunteering as I can go away, be myself and have fun with some truly genuine, dedicated and inspiring people. All volunteers, their different personality traits, and qualities are welcomed at camp. Camp reminds me to see the world through a more positive lens and be more accepting of others. The most unexpected thing about volunteering is whilst we can all expect to come away exhausted, emotionally we are completely recharged and inspired. You quickly realise that what we take from camp as a volunteer is more than we could ever give. It provides us all with an opportunity to grow as individuals and connect with our community.
This is my first ever post, anywhere!, and I am so excited to be seeing this organisation come to life. Back in 2002 when I was a young thing with no husband, children, or responsibilities, I couldn’t have imagined that this was possible. All I know is that this community has been the backbone of my adult life and I intend to keep being a part of it until I am much older and greyer than I am now. I dream about my grandkids being involved and I am so hopeful about what is possible if we keep building this community into the future. The people I have met and who are part of our Heads Together family are truly the most courageous, generous and inspiring people I have ever met and I think that there is such huge potential for this community to create positive change in the way our society views ABI and disability and by doing so create much better futures and possibilities for people with an ABI. So thanks to all of you out there who have been part of this exciting adventure and welcome to any new people who might want to join this amazing community I look forward to a future with an even bigger community. So stay connected and let us know what you think of our new website and how we can make it a really special online community space. xxx