Headway nomination for St Albans brain injury charity volunteer
- Credit: Sharon Cooper
A St Albans woman has been shortlisted for a national award following her tireless efforts to help improve the lives of brain injury survivors in the local community.
Lesley McGuire, 72, will be recognised at the annual awards ceremony organised by Headway - the brain injury association for dedicating the past nine years of her life to caring for her brain injured son and volunteering at a local charity.
Lesley is one of three people from across the UK to be named a finalist for the Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award.
After Lesley's son sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2010, she became his full-time carer and later went on to volunteer at the charity which supported him throughout his recovery.
It was her dedication to her son and tireless efforts as a charity volunteer that earned her the national nomination.
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Keith McGuire, who was just 38 at the time, was involved in a motorcycle accident while living in Thailand in 2008.
His mum Lesley wasn't given much information about what'd happened, but she was told that he was making a meaningful recovery.
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But two years later, Keith had returned to his home in St Albans when he had a violent seizure. Lesley found him on the kitchen floor surrounded by a pool of blood.
Paramedics spent numerous hours stabilising his condition before he underwent emergency surgery. He had sustained a fractured skull and frontal lobe injuries to his brain.
Doctors believe that the seizure was linked to Keith's prior injury.
He once again made a meaningful recovery, but began to experience difficulties with memory, fatigue and behavioural changes.
Lesley said that caring for him during this time was challenging.
"I faced some really difficult times as a carer. I fell into a depressive state and I felt like I was going round in circles at times.
"Because brain injury is a hidden disability, people don't understand what you're going through. There's hardly any understanding about its effects so it can be difficult to find help - for both the survivor and their family."
In the early days of Keith's recovery, he was able to access support from brain injury charity Headway Hertfordshire.
He said: "Before I attended my first session at Headway, I thought to myself 'why am I going, what can they do for me when they don't understand what I've been through?'
"Back in those days I was extremely negative, but then after looking around and seeing others going through similar experiences, the penny dropped.
"I changed my opinion and I knew I was in a place where people could truly help me."
But Headway Hertfordshire didn't just support Keith, the group's Carers Education sessions helped Lesley to come to terms with the effects of her son's injury.
Keith said: "I know that mum found the information on understanding the brain very useful.
"It was nice for her to meet other carers and share experiences with them.
"It made me feel happier too knowing that she had people to talk to."
Keith passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer, but his legacy has lived on through Lesley and her determination to support others with a brain injury.
She now runs a number of the charity's peer support groups: "We're like a little family at Headway Hertfordshire. It's great to be able to speak to others who understand your struggles.
"If I just stayed at home I know that I'd feel worse about my situation, but volunteering at has given my life purpose. I don't know what I would do without it."
Lesley was nominated for the award by John Archer, chief executive of Headway Hertfordshire.
He said: "She's a one in a million volunteer and any charity would be lucky to have her.
"She displays such tenacity and has a positive reputation across the Headway network. Lesley takes pride in everything that she does and has such an enormous heart.
"Keith had a very complex and difficult recovery pathway, but Lesley was always there, providing support and encouragement even in the darkest of times."
Lesley will find out if she's won on Friday December 6 at the awards luncheon at the InterContinental London Park Lane, Mayfair.