Maria & Steve’s Remarkable Story

Maria & Steve’s Remarkable Story

Sunday 24th September 2017 was just a normal day for Maria, before she came home after a busy day at work as an events manager. She went to run a bath, leaned forward and was suddenly hit by an excruciating and severe pain in her head. She screamed and her partner Steve came running, she thought she was saying she was okay, but all Steve heard was garbled and slurred speech.

Normally Steve worked away and traveled on a Sunday, but luckily, he was home that day and recognised what was happening and called the emergency services straight away. Maria had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and the doctors said she probably would not have survived, if he had not been there to make the call.

A 50/50 Survival Rate

Maria was 19 weeks pregnant when incident happened and doctors feared she would have to lose her baby. She was sent to Queens’s hospital where she underwent a life-saving craniotomy but at the time was only given a 50\50 chance of surviving the night.

Amazingly, Maria and her unborn child survived and Maria was placed in an induced coma for a further 2 weeks. She was brought out of the coma the day after her birthday, but has no memory of the first week after waking up from her coma.

Maria spent a further 2 months in the high dependency ward before being moved to the stroke ward at Broomfield hospital. At this point Maria was about 28 weeks pregnant and the doctors were unsure what Maria’s level of recovery would be. Steve regularly told Maria when she was in hospital to stay strong and to keep fighting. She received physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy in hospital which she continued for 9-12 months after she came home on 23rd November 2017.

Miracles happen with Mountains Still to Climb

Despite everything on 25th January 2018 Maria gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but just when a young couple should be enjoying a magical time, they still faced huge challenges. With Maria’s strength and determination and with Steve’s unwavering support, she had made great progress, but they still had a long road to recovery ahead. Maria still had speech issues and struggled to have a conversation, she had problems walking and limited use of her arm.

In addition, Maria had to wait a year before she could have plastic surgery to replace the missing part of her skull, which was removed in the craniotomy. In the interim, she had to wear protective headwear, which added to feelings of self-consciousness and of not being the same person. She constantly thought “why me” and felt angry about what had happened. With all the changes and challenges, she became withdrawn and was put on antidepressants.

Determination and Teamwork

Steve was signed off work for 1 year to support Maria with the new baby. They worked as a team to ensure Maria made the best possible recovery. Their whole life had to be re-adjusted, but they took on the struggle together.

Despite all the challenges within the six months following her brain injury, they had Matthew and also moved to a new house. Now two years on, they have to remember to look back on how far they have come. Her recovery has been remarkable and defied her surgeon’s expectations.

Maria can now walk unaided, has regained most of the use of her arm and her speech has significantly improved. Maria said “It’s been difficult managing family life, a new born and recovery at the same time. Most people can solely focus on recovery whereas for us there were other things to juggle.”

In October 2019, two years after Maria’s brain injury Maria and Steve got married.

Support from Headway Essex

Making contact with Headway Essex has really helped with Maria’s recovery. Attending some support groups really helped Maria to socialise and realise that she wasn’t alone and she was able to gain great peer support from the group by meeting other people who were going through something similar to her.

Headway Essex also gave them advice and introduced them to other organisations that could help. They helped get a bus pass for Maria as well as a brain injury awareness card to give her more independence and confidence. Headway Essex also introduced Maria to the Home Start playgroup for parents struggling with confidence, for her and Matthew to attend. They also advised benefits and support entitlements to make their lives easier. Steve and Maria said, “Headway Essex have been brilliant and we are so thankful to them”.

The struggle continues

Maria still struggles with fatigue and sometimes cannot easily find the right words, which can make conversation difficult. Maria and Steve are a great team and work together on their goals. Maria lost basic skills such as reading and writing, but recently achieved a huge goal of being able to read a book to her son, Matthew.

Her personality has changed, where she use to be very outgoing, the injury has had a huge effect on her confidence. She is also teaching herself to write again, but it takes persistence and determination to keep pushing herself forward.

Her determination and hard work are inspirational and she will still have to undergo further plastic surgery on her skull. Despite everything, this remarkable woman sees herself as a mum first and her brain injury comes second.

Headway Essex Launch 2020 Black Tie Ball

Headway Essex Launch 2020 Black Tie Ball

Headway Essex’s annual black tie event will take place on Friday 6 March 2020 at the beautiful Stoke by Nayland Hotel, situated near Colchester, on the Essex and Suffolk border.

Hollywood Glitz and Glamour

We are extremely excited to announce that this year’s theme is Vintage Hollywood!
We always pay special attention to our popular themed black tie events to ensure that all our guests have a wonderful experience, whilst raising funds for Headway Essex. This year is no exception, so let us sweep you away with the romance, glitz and glamour of a golden era of Hollywood.

Sparkling Reception and Great Food

All our guests will enjoy a sparkling reception with canapés and a delicious dining experience with a three course dinner and coffee.


Raising Vital Funds

No Charity evening would be complete without a live auction and raffle. We know it is important to source interesting, novel and luxurious items for our guests to bid for in a fun and lively auction. Last year items included a luxury villa stay, a weekend in a cosy coastguard’s cottage and a golfing break in the luxury Vale Hotel and much, much more. We are working hard to make it even bigger and better in 2020.


Let your Hair Down then Lie Down!

The feel good feeling continues long into the evening. This year, back by popular demand, you can dance the night away with our amazing top disco funk band, Frisco Monk.
And if you really want to make it a special occasion there is the option of booking a room for the night at a special event rate and enjoy the extensive golf and spa facilities of the hotel.
So what are you waiting for?


Book your tickets today – Early Bird Offer

Our early bird offer is now live and will be available until Friday 20th December 2019.
Early bird ticket prices (only available until 20th December 2019)
£70 individual ticket
£650 table of 10
Standard ticket prices (from 21st December 2019 onwards)
£75 individual ticket
£700 table of 10
To book tickets or for any inquiries please contact the Headway Essex Fundraising Team on fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or call 01206 845945.
Terms and conditions can be found on our website www.headwayessex.org.uk

Swim, Run, Pub

Swim, Run, Pub

On Saturday 5th October, the Headway Essex fundraising team headed down to Shoeburyness to be a part of an exciting and fun event called Swim, Run, Pub. The event was organised by Headway Essex Trustee, Rob Warren and the Chalkwell Redcaps open water swimming club and they invited Headway Essex to be part of the event.

The Spectacular Seafront Route

This year’s event saw participants take on 10km run along the lovely Southend seafront broken up with five invigorating swims in-between. Starting with a swim from Shoeburyness East Beach, runners then headed along via Thorpe Bay Yacht Club, Jubilee Beach, Chalkwell Beach (home of the Redcaps) before ending up at Bell Wharf, Leigh-on-Sea for the final refreshing swim and a well-deserved drink at the pub with friends, family and supporters.

2020’s Event Will Be Even Bigger!

Headway Essex are thrilled to be getting more involved with this event next year and will be working closely alongside Rob and the Chalkwell Redcaps to put on the 2020 event. We want to see more people get involved and the event will be open to individuals and team entries. There will be medals and certificates awarded to all participants, as well as a guaranteed good time for everyone involved!

Want To Get Involved?

The 2020 Swim, Run, Pub is in the early stages of planning but will take place in October with final details to be confirmed. You can register your interest in the event using the contact details below and we will keep you updated as our plans progress.

We are also keen to hear from local residents who would like to be part of this exciting event by volunteering your help on the day.

Contact Us

Contact our fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk if you are interested in being a part of this event. Also, be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates on the Swim, Run, Pub and all future events.

Headway Essex to be the primary Colchester Half Marathon beneficiary in 2020 – the event’s 10th Anniversary!

Headway Essex to be the primary Colchester Half Marathon beneficiary in 2020 – the event’s 10th Anniversary!


On Sunday 29th March 2020, over 4,000 runners will take on the Colchester Half Marathon to raise over £60k directly and over £250k indirectly through runners’ own efforts for good causes.


Returning for its tenth year, it has firmly established itself as one of the biggest and best races in the region. Organised by a group of dedicated volunteers from Colchester Round Table, alongside many individuals from in and around Colchester, it really is a fantastic community effort with people working tirelessly throughout the year to ensure a great race day experience.


Close to the cause


Headway Essex has been involved with this event for years and manned one of the official water stations, but this year Headway Essex will be the main benefiting charities and will receive a 75% share of the income raised.


The start and finish line is at Weston Homes Community Stadium, almost a stone’s throw away from The Headway Centre and promises to be an amazing mass-participation event bringing together local runners, businesses and the community. Runners can enjoy this half marathon set in the historical town of Colchester while making a positive difference to charities in the area.


Take part with Headway Essex


As a partnership charity we’ve been given 20 guaranteed entry places, all we ask is that you donate/raise £30 and we’ll register for you. In return you’ll receive a Headway Essex technical running vest and a massive cheer on the day. If you’re up for a challenge please get in touch with the fundraising team to register your interest by emailing fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or calling 01206 845945.


Volunteer with Headway Essex


If that sounds too energetic then why not join us on the day and help us marshal the event. We need to recruit 100 people to help, if this sounds more your cup of tea please get in touch with us at fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or calling 01206 845945.


Whichever option you choose it’s guaranteed to be an amazing and rewarding experience being part of such a large iconic event.



Headway Essex Classic Vehicle Show brings crowds to Castle Park

Headway Essex Classic Vehicle Show brings crowds to Castle Park

Visitors to the Essex Classic Vehicle show in Colchester Castle Park, on Sunday 15th September, were transported back in time, to admire motoring classics of a bygone age. This nostalgic event organised by local brain injury charity Headway Essex is now in its fourth-consecutive year and continues to grow in popularity.

A thriving event

With over 240 classic vehicles from across the decades on display, the event attracted over 2500 visitors to Lower Castle Park. With a combined vehicle history of over 7,000 years, it was a real treat for visitors to view the classic vehicles in all their glory and chat to the owners.

An arena show presenting the best vehicles was the main event of the day, as the selected proud owners showed off their cherished cars. Trophies were awarded various categories including best pre-war car and best vehicle of the show.

The winner of the coveted ‘Best Vehicle at Show’ was a Ford Popular 103e 1958.

Spectacular entertainment

As well as plenty of wonderful classic vehicles to admire, local singer Steve Brewer and free-runners and acrobats Team Kinetix, entertained the crowds. There was also a wonderful selection of craft, gift and food stalls.

An extremely successful day

This year’s event raised over £10,000 which will go to ensure that Headway Essex can continue to provide rehabilitation and support for brain injury survivors and their families and carers in Essex.

Tracy Wellsted, Headway Essex Fundraising Manager, said: “It was an absolute delight to see so many people attend and raise such a fantastic amount of money. We’re also incredibly grateful to all the classic vehicle owners for their support in making this such a wonderful event and for the Charity Classic Vehicle Club for deciding to partner with us again this year.

“A special thanks as always to our wonderful team of volunteers, including the Rotary Club of Billericay Mayflower and the Essex Police Cadets who helped us run the event on the day.”

Thank you

Everyone at Headway Essex would like to say a massive thank you to all of those involved in the event. To see the photos from the day head over to our Facebook page. For more information on upcoming events please keep an eye on our website and social media; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

South Essex Sessions Up & Running

South Essex Activity Sessions Up & Running


We are pleased to announce that our South Essex Brain Injury Hub, has rolled out various different activity sessions throughout the summer months, to help people to become more independent and confident.


Brain Injury & Me


Our foundation activity is Brain Injury and Me, a programme created to give the individuals a better insight into their injury, its effects and impact on others and tools and techniques to compensate.


The feedback we have received has been very positive. The attendees claim they have gained peer support and are able to talk freely about their condition, something they may feel unable to do with close family, but with a little encouragement, this obstacle has been overcome. These sessions run for a 9-week period on a Wednesday Morning commencing at 10.00am, until approx. 13.00pm.


Fitness for All


We have also rolled out Fitness for All a gentle exercise class suiting all abilities, which can be done seated or standing. During our class, we aim to help improve balance, posture, core strength, muscle strength and co-ordination. It truly does not matter what your ability is, almost anyone can join in, including those in a wheelchair. Our client’s say they receive great peer support, have a good laugh and enjoy the group discussion once the session has finished. Fitness for All is held every Tuesday afternoon from 1pm, until approximately 14.15pm.


Cooking for the Brain


Our Cooking for the Brain session, follows the Fitness for All class. This is a class to help individuals gain some independence in the kitchen, preparing basic meals using healthy ingredients that can be beneficial to the brain. Cooking for the Brain is held every Tuesday from 14.30pm, until 16.30pm. You may choose to come along to both Fitness for All and Cooking for the Brain on the same day.


Fatigue and Me


Fatigue and Me, will soon be commencing in October. During this session we will discuss ‘What is Fatigue’, it’s effect’s on you and others, we will also look at ways to help you reduce your fatigue levels. These sessions will run for a period of 2 hours, commencing at 14.00pm on a Wednesday afternoon, over a 5 week period.


Contact us


Over the course of the Autumn more sessions will follow, which will be announced in our next Newsletter. To access our sessions please contact the Benfleet Brain Injury Hub on 01206-482461 to gain further information. Please note our sessions will be subject to an assessment.

Halloween Bake Off 2019

Halloween Bake Off 2019

This Halloween Headway Essex are holding a Halloween Bake Off! Get creative, bake some spooky treats and raise money for a great local charity.

Get Involved

To get involved you will have to;

  1. Bake a Halloween treat (this can be a cake, cupcakes, brownies, cookies and more!)
  2. Send us a picture of your creation and a donation to Headway Essex. (Each individual entry is a £1 minimum donation.
  3. We will announce the winners for the following prizes on Thursday 31st October 2019 (via social media) and we will contact you to arrange sending your certificate.
  • Most spooky treat
  • Most gruesome treat
  • Most creative treat

Terms and conditions

Entry pictures can either be emailed to us on fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or posted on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) and must use #headwayessexhalloween to be entered

Donations can be made via Facebook, Virgin Money Giving or via PayPal (payments to be made to webshop@headwayessex.org.uk)

All entries must be submitted by Wednesday 30th October 2019


Contact Us

For any questions you may have please contact the fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk

Fundraising for Headway Essex

Fundraising for Headway Essex

Headway Essex relies on fundraising to provide vital services to brain injury survivors and their families. Hosting your own fundraising event can be a fun and very rewarding thing to do and we are very grateful to the people who give up their time to raise money in this way. There are many different ways people can do this and there is more information on this in our fundraising guide. We are always happy to discuss fundraising ideas with supporters and provide promotional materials for the event.

Connection with Headway Essex

It is very heart-warming when someone who has received help from Headway Essex, decides that they want to give something back.

Recently Sophie Headford, who hosts a dance event each year, contacted us to say this year, she had decided to donate the profits of her event to Headway Essex.

Sophie said “My Mum had a static brain haemorrhage brought on by a direct blow to the head after she fell at Leigh tip 5 years ago. This was a life changing injury for her and had life changing consequences for me and my family.”

“I was given Headway Essex phone number early on during the 18 weeks my mum spent in Southend hospital. At that time I wasn’t sure how they were going to be able to help me. It felt as though my whole world had collapsed and would never be the same again. I did however call one day, when I was very low and spoke to a girl called Emma. I cried a lot and we talked a lot and she called me every week to see how I was coping and how my mum was getting on. It was really good to talk and I really appreciated the support Headway Essex provided at this devastating time.”

“Sadly, Mum passed away in September 2019 as a result of numerous strokes and vascular dementia caused by the accident.”

Sophie’s Dance Event

“Every year for the last 12 years I have organised a fundraising evening for numerous local charities. I had been a professional dancer in my younger years and taught dance to adults for the last 20 years. ‘Delusion’ the dance troupe came about 15 years ago and we are a group of 8-12 women who love to dance.”

“The evening was a wonderful tribute to my Mum and a fundraiser for Headway Essex. It was a great night full of singers, musicians, comedy and magic and together we raised £1740. I am proud of what we achieve and know this money will go towards helping another family who may need Headway’s support.”

Get Involved

If you want to host an event, or fundraise for Headway Essex, we would love to hear from you. You can e-mail fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or phone 01206 845945 (option 5).

A Long Road to Recovery

A Long Road to Recovery

Merita Isufi’s life changed forever, following a tragic car accident on 4th July 2014. Merita and her son survived the accident, but tragically, her husband and 2 other children did not. Coping with such a devastating loss is more than most of us would have to bear in a lifetime, but Merita was also left with a brain injury and the struggle of a long journey of rehabilitation ahead.

Rehabilitation Support at the Headway Centre

As part of her rehabilitation, Merita now attends the Headway Centre in Colchester. One of the activities available to people who attend the Headway Centre is trampolining. At these sessions trained therapists provide a specialist programme and support, which is suitable for people of all abilities and is a great benefit to the more severely disabled. In addition to improved fitness, muscle and core strength, trampolining sessions have other benefits, such as, improved confidence, improved ability to follow instructions, improved/maintained mental health and reduced stress levels.

Positive Progress through Trampolining Sessions

Recently we sat down to speak to Meritas and her carer Andreea. Andreea has been Meritas carer since April 2018 and in that time they have formed an incredible bond. Andreea told us about how far Merita has progressed since she has been working with her. “We do 2 trampolining sessions a week, the consistency of which I think really helps Meritas progression (along with her determination of course). She also goes to the gym three times a week and attends the Headway Essex day centre two days a week.”

Paul, one of the Headway Centre care officers commented on the progress Merita has made “Merita has come so far on her journey since the accident. When she first came to us at Headway Essex she had to have two people to help her walk. Now she is able to walk independently with a carer nearby.” Meritas progression has a lot to do with her trampolining sessions as the balance and coordination she needs for this really help with her being able to walk independently.

Exceeding Expectations

Merita has continued to exceed everyone’s expectations as she has recently been awarded two awards for her trampolining progress. On the 29th June 2019, she was awarded 3rd place with the Tiegan Rose Cup and on the 12th July 2019 Merita was awarded with an independent jumping award. Merita told us how “amazing” trampolining makes her feel.

Paul went on to tell us “every time Merita is set a goal in her trampolining sessions, she achieves it extremely quickly. A couple of weeks ago we set her a goal to jump independently to reach by Christmas this year and she’s already achieved it. The progression and determination Merita shows is truly unbelievable”.

We are all very proud of Merita at Headway Essex and we are looking forward to seeing the further progression she makes.


If you would like more information on Headway Essex services and how we can help you, please get in touch on 01206 845945.

Returning to Work After a Brain Injury

Returning to Work After a Brain Injury

Following even a mild brain injury, daily life can be affected, including employment. Common hidden affects can be fatigue, short-term memory issues and unable to work in a noisy environment. This means, people may be unable to do the job that they once did in the same way, or may no longer be able to do it safely.

Returning to a familiar workplace

This does not have to mean they are no longer able to work, but may mean they need adaptations to their workplace, or a different role.

Ideally, it is better to return to a job you know well rather than to try a new job as familiarity of the role, colleagues and the working environment can all be helpful.

Helping with the Transition

Although the employee does not have to disclose or give details of their brain injury to their employer, it might be useful to help with the transition.

Depending on how the individual is affected, some ideas that the employer and employee should consider are:

  • Gradual return e.g. two or three mornings a week or working from home initially
  • Returning with shorter hours
  • Allowing more breaks through the day
  • Returning with less workload
  • Taking up a different role

Supportive Employers

We were please to read a recent press article where Nottingham-based civil and electrical engineering firm McCann, supported a colleague to return to work after a stroke and heart surgery. The full article can be read here.

For more information on this topic, can be found in the Headway Information Library on our website

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