A NEW community support centre dedicated to helping those recovering from serious brain injuries can become a symbol of hope and positivity for all those facing the long hard road to recovery, its founder says.
Paul Spence and Karl Turner MP will officially open the PAUL – For Brain Recovery Centre in Hull on Friday, April 15, a facility Paul says will fill a crucial gap in the care provided to those who are left facing the huge challenge of rebuilding their lives after a brain injury.
Paul, of Hull, East Yorkshire, suffered a brain haemorrhage himself in 2012 at the age of 32, when he was the victim of a violent, unprovoked attack on a night out in the city. He spent five days in and out of consciousness and repeatedly suffered seizures on a high dependency ward in hospital.
With the exceptional support of doctors, the fight for survival was one Paul won, but he believes his biggest battle came when adjusting to life back in the real world, amongst his family, friends, and colleagues.
Paul says he says his centre will provide a new level of community-based support, which he felt was lacking when battling to recovery himself.
With statistics showing more than 3,000 patients were seen at hospitals in East Yorkshire in the two years from start of 2013 with acute or traumatic brain injuries, there is a clear need for the additional community support, and Paul hopes his own story – from suffering his injury to the milestone opening of the new centre this week – can act as an inspiration to many.
“I hope people can look at me as an example of how despite life changing beyond recognition after a brain injury, it can still be a positive experience and you can still achieve and succeed,” he said.
“When I stand and officially open the centre I will be incredibly proud of what I have achieved and how I have pushed myself to do new things after a brain injury. It has been a long hard road to get from the initial idea to gaining full charity status, and then actually opening the centre itself, but I have done it.
“In many ways it will mark the end of one very significant journey for me in my life. It has been the focus for so long, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Now I can really make a positive difference.
“I hope the road which has taken me to where I am today can act as an inspiration to others who find themselves where I was back in 2012, because back then I didn’t think there was anything to be positive about. Hopefully the centre, and the story behind its creation, can be a symbol of hope.
“Most importantly, I know it will be a place of Positivity, Awareness, Understanding and Love. That is what the charity name of PAUL stands for. That’s what we’ll deliver to those rebuilding their lives, at all times.”
The centre will initially be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-5pm, and Wednesday evenings from 4pm-8pm.
It will offer guidance and support through inspirational and motivational talks and educational sessions on topics from coping strategies to healthy nutrition, fitness, recovery and well-being.
Associates of the PAUL charity, including leading brain injury specialists who Paul has established close links to over the past four years, will also provide support at the centre.
Visitors will also be able to take part in a number of specifically designed physical and mental activities to help stimulate and progress their minds and memories, with all regular visitors having their progress tracked each month to highlight steps forward in their recovery portfolio.
Providing family support was one of the key services identified by Paul as a must for the new centre, as he says the impact of his brain injury on life at home, his relationships with his loved ones, and friends, was one of the biggest challenges he, and those who cared for him, faced.
“We’ve really tried to focus the centre on providing the kind of support which is lacking in communities for people when they leave hospital and start trying to rebuild their lives, as that is when the really tough part of recovery starts,” Paul added.
“Once you leave hospital you find your biggest challenge is only just starting, and that is adapting to your new life and finding it in yourself to accept your old life is gone forever. For every patient that has a brain injury, you may as well multiply that number by five in terms of how many people it affects within the community.
“Nothing could prepare me or my family for the battle of brain recovery and the difficulties it brought. They were brilliant and did their best for me, but it was a complete change for us all, and a struggle.
“I didn’t realise at the time, but my bonds with loved ones were non-existent. It was a really sad consequence of the injury. I was in a complete world of my own. I was functioning, but at such a low level of thought and feeling.
“It’s probably best to describe me as a shell at that time. I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t love people, but I certainly couldn’t express that love and affection, and that must be a hugely difficult thing for a family to handle.
“My message is that if you’re caring for a loved one with a brain injury and feeling like you’re not getting anything back, don’t worry. It gets better in time. You may be a different person after a brain injury, but you can still have a positive future, and the bonds can be rebuilt. You just have to understand it is a long process which requires.”
The opening of the new centre has been made possible thanks to funding raised from Paul’s many fundraising physical challenges and community events held over the past 12 months, and with support from both Hudgell Solicitors, and the NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which has offered a base at the Wilberforce Health Centre in Story Street, Hull to support the PAUL for Brain Recovery Centre for the first 12 months
Neil Hudgell, managing director of Hudgell Solicitors, for whom Paul provides one-to-one support to brain injury victims supported by the firm in his role as an ambassador, said: “We’re delighted to have supported Paul in achieving his goal of opening this centre, something which without doubt will prove a vital facility for those recovering from serious injury in the region.
“Much of our focuses upon supporting people to rebuild their lives after serious illness or injury, and support and rehabilitation in the community should never be something which is overlooked.
“Paul has first-hand experience of walking that road to recovery, and the difficulties faced, both physically and psychologically, so is the perfect person to lead this. Paul cares passionately about making a positive difference, and I am confident that will ensure this venture is a great success.”
Emma Latimer, NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Officer said:
“Paul’s remarkable journey to overcome traumatic brain injury – and his desire to help others in the same position – has led to the development of a special, one-of-a-kind facility for Hull. We want to wish him and his team every success with the new recovery centre.”
Karl Turner, Labour MP for East Hull said:
“Paul’s story is inspirational. His journey is one that will touch the hearts of many across Hull and East Yorkshire.
“After life changing injuries, Paul is determined to make sure that others are able to benefit positively from his experiences.
“This facility will provide vital support for victims of brain injuries and I am proud to have been invited along to open it”
- The PAUL For Brain Recovery Centre will be officially opened to invited guests at 1pm on Friday, April 15. It will be open to members of the public from 12-3pm on Saturday, April 16.
- The service will be available from Tuesday, April 19, at 9am.
Read how Paul helped Alison on the road to recovery