Brain injury local area co-ordinator, Elisa O’Donovan, with Headway service user Denis Cusack - Picture: Mike Cowhey
THE FORMER AIB bank on Upper William Street is the new home of Headway, which improves the lives of those with ABI (acquired brain injury).
The charity commenced work in its new premises this week after moving from Steamboat Quay.
Brain injury local area co-ordinator, Elisa O’Donovan said the purpose-built rehabilitation centre in the heart of Limerick city will help Headway to expand.
“We currently have a high demand for brain injury services in Limerick and our new centre, made possible through the support of the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, will ensure quality services for people living with ABI throughout the Mid-West,” said Ms O’Donovan.
Currently, 70 clients access the organisation’s services from Counties Limerick, Clare, Tipperary and Kerry. There is around a three month waiting list.
“Hopefully, with the new building we will have more space to expand our services and cater to more people,” she said.
People just like Denis Cusack, originally from Janesboro, who has benefitted from Headway’s services.
“I came into Headway as an angry man. I didn’t feel judged and they facilitated me to progress onto courses and provided me with help in changing my outlook. Headway was a place where people understood my condition,” said Denis, who is 54.
Almost exactly five years ago he suffered multiple strokes.
“I lost 70% of the use of my left upper and lower limbs. My leg and arms can become stiff and make walking and picking up objects difficult on my left side. While walking I use a cane to prevent falls.
“I will admit that I have slowed down with my thought process, I feel this may be an advantage as I was quite an impulsive person before my stroke. My fiancé has been a great help to me in my recovery and supports me in my endeavours to get back to work and a somewhat normal life,” said Denis.
Before his stroke he said he had a “rich lifestyle”.
“I was drinking, smoking and eating fast food. I was a diabetic. Stress was a factor as well but It was more my lifestyle. These days I am on a much healthier diet and I walk at least 10 to 12 kilometres per day.
“My advice for those to prevent a stroke is if you don’t smoke, don’t start. And if you have diabetes monitor your sugar levels and watch your diet and alcohol intake.”
While he has slowed down after his stroke, Denis has found a new hunger to learn new skills.
“Maybe this is because I feel the need to prove to myself and to others that my life is not over and I intend to go on and have a worthwhile life. My end goal is to help others after stroke or those with acquired brain injuries, and work as an advocate or mentor to others.
“I have learnt a lot over the last five years but the most important thing I have learned is that while a stroke is a life changing event, it is not life ending and there is always a way to move on and make a new start in life,” said Denis.
Ms O’Donovan said an acquired brain injury can be the result of a number of factors, including stroke, infection or a blow to the head.
“One in five people will suffer a stroke at some stage in their lives, and it is estimated that 10,000 will sustain a traumatic brain injury annually in Ireland, most commonly through a fall.
“Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time during their lives.
“Many people with a brain injury make a good physical recovery after acquired brain injury. For some people what changes is the way they think and feel, how they talk to, and relate, to others, their memory, and how they experience the world.”
Headway aims to bring positive change into the lives of those affected by acquired brain injury. In Limerick, they offer rehabilitative training, community integration, vocational services, counselling and family support.
“Those who use our services frequently say that Headway provides them with a sense of purpose and community after brain injury. We support people to re-learn the skills they may have lost as a result of their injury and facilitate our clients to be as independent as possible in their everyday lives.”
If anyone would like more information please contact Elisa O’Donovan on 087 3553823.