By Paul Spence, official ambassador for Hudgell Solicitors.
It was a year ago this week that I found myself out of work and simply not knowing what the future would hold.
I had tried to return to work following my brain injury, but unfortunately, given I had a demanding job as an electrical foreman on large sites, I found I was no longer able to cope with the pressures involved day to day.
It was simply too much for me, and having to leave a job I had always loved was a very sad day. I was at a crossroads in life.
My brain injury had shattered the life that I knew. It had impacted on every aspect of life, physically, mentally and emotionally – not only on me, but also on all those I loved.
It was then that I decided to open up and share my experiences of brain injury, and the long hard road to recovery. I wanted others to hear about the massive impact it had on my life, and Facebook seemed the ideal way to do it.
I simply started by posting updates about my life, my difficulties, how I faced them, and how I ultimately found positivity when walking what I now call ‘the line of despair’.
I had realised how people can fall either way from that line – either towards positivity and hope or towards despair and desperation, and I wanted to try and keep others on the right side of that line.
Today, 12 months on, I can only look back in amazement at what has been achieved over the past year.
I have established my own charity, Paul For Brain Recovery, with the support of many great people. The ultimate goal is to open up a walk-in centre to help support people with brain injury on the long, tough journey towards recovery which I have walked myself, and we are making great progress in that regard.
Just weeks ago I was named the Charity Champion at the Pride of East Yorkshire Awards, in recognition of my fundraising, from which I have donated more than £30,000 to the Neurosurgical Ward at Hull Royal Infirmary – a ward where many talented people saved my life.
I know they will go on saving many, many more lives in the years to come, and I will continue to support them.
Money was raised from a number of events. I firstly completed a half marathon, and then a full marathon three years to the day of my injury. Since, I have completed four marathons in consecutive days around the coastline of Ibiza, before finally running a 50k ‘Ultra Marathon’ in the Nevada Desert last month.
I’ve also had plenty of fun, stripping off a couple of times with friends to raise money through a ‘Hull Workmen’ calendar, and a ‘Hull Monty’ night.
Essentially, there have been two key objectives to everything I have done.
Firstly, I have worked hard to raise awareness of the need for better community-based support for brain injury victims. I have achieved this to some extent, but much more still needs to be done.
Secondly, I wanted to become a positive role model by inspiring those who are feeling down, and struggling in their recovery from brain injury. I wanted to show them that anything is possible. Progress may not be running a marathon for others, it may simply be standing up, but any progress is to be celebrated.
Recently, I was extremely proud to become an ‘Official Ambassador’ for brain injury legal specialists Hudgell Solicitors, a role in which I will be supporting their clients in offering one-to-one support and advice.
Basically, I’ll be there for people when they need me, someone to turn to in times of difficulty, and someone to help them stay positive and focus on key targets to aid their rehabilitation. I’ll be helping people get better, and I can think of no better role to play in the community given my experiences over the past three years.
In recent weeks, I have started to work with brain injury victims and support them in their goals. It is truly wonderful to be helping people take small steps towards recovery. Every step forward is hugely significant, every moment of progress a real milestone. These are tough, emotional journeys for people, and I am privileged to play my part.
With close to 3,000 people now following my Facebook page, I am able to connect with brain injury victims across the world, and am doing so on a regular basis.
My targets for the first 12 months have been surpassed by some way. Three years after my injury, I have come a long way. The last 12 months, which started with my life at a crossroads, has seen the most amazing progress, and I want to thank everybody that has helped.
Hopefully, the next 12 months will bring similar success, but no matter what happens, I’ll be out there providing positivity, raising awareness, and most importantly offering understanding and love.
It’s what Paul For Brain Recovery, and my role at Hudgell Solicitors, is all about.