Learning to live without limits

Learning to live without limits

Stuart, a Headway Essex Client, had never flown in a plane, been up a mountain, or gone whale watching until after he acquired a brain injury.

18 months ago, he was embracing life despite the challenges having muscular dystrophy brings. He was unaware of what was about to happen. In March 2017, Stuart had a stroke. His life was redefined overnight.

He spent two long months being cared for at Colchester General Hospital. “I was far from great whilst in hospital” he describes. “There was so much information to take in and things to consider. I could never have imagined that I would be jet-setting to Tenerife on my own just over a year later.”

It was at hospital that Stuart met Amanda from Headway Essex’s community support team. “Amanda and the team have given me so much support. I attend a monthly brain injury support group and have completed the Headway Essex ABIEV education programme, which has given me insight into my injury.”

Emotional support at Headway Essex

Most important of all, being a Headway Essex client, we supported Stuart with the emotional challenges he faced. Building confidence through one-to-one support and advice and peer encouragement has seen Stuart take on personal (and physical) challenges he wouldn’t have done before having a stroke.

After his stroke, he wanted to do something he had never done before; go on holiday abroad. After some research, Stuart’s carer discovered a company called Limitless Travel. Founded by Angus Drummond, who also has muscular dystrophy, the travel company is built around the idea that everyone should be able to pursue their aspirations through travel, regardless of their disability; whether that’s a trip to Blackpool and the Lake District or to the other side of the world.

Encouraged by what he read, Stuart booked a trip with Limitless Travel to Tenerife in May 2018. At first, Stuart was really excited, but he admits that “as I got closer to going, I started to get really anxious about everything. I had never been on a plane before and so I was not only concerned about flying but about the practicalities surrounding my mobility. My NHS wheelchair, for instance, would have to be taken apart for transportation! Then there were the concerns I had around being so far away from my family and carers. What if something went wrong?”

Headway Essex was there for Stuart during the weeks leading up to his trip. “Amanda helped me break down each concern and made me realise just how much I needed this trip; for me, and most importantly, for my rehabilitation.”

Nothing at all went wrong for Stuart whilst he stayed at the fully accessible Mar y Sol Hotel in Los Cristianos. Quite the opposite. “Los Cristianos surprised me with how accessible it is. Everywhere there is a step there is a ramp and there was even a mobility shop right next to our hotel where I could book almost any trip I liked. My disability was not an issue. It was like heaven.”

Achieving goals without limits

With the support of Limitless Travel’s carers, Stuart reached the 2.4km point on Mount Teide, the second largest volcano in the world. He took a dip in the sea with the use of a specifically adapted pathway and ramp, went whale watching, went swimming in a pool for the first time in 30 years, visited Loro Parque animal park and even sang karaoke for the first time ever!

In his own words, Stuart describes “I felt free, like I was in another world. I was doing exactly what others do on holiday, with no limits. Having a brain injury or a disability should not stop you doing the things you want to do.”

With this in mind, Stuart has now booked a trip to Blackpool and the Lake District in October with the same company. He’s looking forward to visiting the scenic Coniston Water, Lake Windermere and Ambleside without limits!

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