3 people smiling standing in front of a wall

How a negative circumstance can influence a positive growth

We had the pleasure of catching up with Vikki Hutt who has two young children and suffered a serious brain injury in January at the age of 45 which, she says has changed her life “for the better”.

Vikki’s accident

On 14th January 2019 Vikki fell down the stairs in her home causing her to be knocked unconscious and leaving her children to call the police.

Billie-Mae, Vikki’s daughter told us “I ran up to my brother shouting ‘Mum’s dead on the floor, I don’t know what to do’”.

Vikki continues “My son Alfie called 999 and had to go outside to guide the ambulance to the house in the dark. I was taken straight to Broomfield’s hospital and referred straight on to Addenbrookes hospital, due to the seriousness of the brain injury. My family were told numerous times that I would never survive, my parents were told to find a care home for me because they thought I would have no memory and be incapable of living a normal life”. Billie-Mae told us how sad this made her and how she thought she would never have the mum she always wished for.

Vikki’s accident caused damage to her right frontal lobe, she broke the base and most of the right hand side of her skull. Vikki also had a subarachnoid haemorrhage and large hematomas on her right hand lower lobe.

Vikki pulled through at Addenbrookes but she was told she wouldn’t be able to walk again. The same day Vikki took her first steps. “It really is a miracle” added Vikki.

Life changed for the better

Before Vikki’s accident, she had a codeine and paracetamol addiction. “I was given painkillers at 18 when I had my back injury. Overtime I increased my dose with everything physically that went wrong.” This made Vikki drowsy all the time and really affected her and her children’s lives.

When Vikki woke up in hospital she was on morphine for the pain in her bones however after that Vikki refused all pain medication from the hospital because she was determined to turn her life around. “The nurses said how proud they were of me. They said I had done what none of their other patients could do”.

Vikki’s brother in law was one of many family members to visit her in the hospital. “When I first became conscious he said to me ‘Vikki this is the best conversation I’ve had with you for years, you need to stay like this’ and that’s what gave me the buzz to think I can recover and change my life around”. Vikki’s relationships with her entire family have dramatically improved since her recovery.

Billie Mae added “when I found out my mum was refusing the pills I thought I might have a chance to have the mummy I’ve always been wishing for”.

Life has completely changed for Vikki since the accident. She told us “I’m a different person to what I was before. I’m the mum that my kids have always wanted. Everything’s worth it. Having my two children is worth more than gold itself”.

Looking to the future

The recovery process at home was incredibly fast for Vikki. “I was told by a neurologist that I’m only the third person in the UK to recover to the level I have in this short space of time.” Vikki’s family were told to expect the worst so this is an incredible outcome for her and her family.

Personal goals for Vikki’s future include going back to work as a nurse as well as raising awareness for prescription drug addiction and helping people who are struggling as she was. Vikki already had 2 degrees, one in palliative care (end of life care) and another in oncology (cancer care) however she would like to do a PHD.

Vikki’s children also have bright futures ahead of them. Billy Mae hopes to become a dog handler for the police force and already has a place to spend an experience day with as fully qualified dog handler.

14 year old Alfie’s life and goals for the future have also changed since his mum’s accident. “The police have offered Alfie work experience as after my accident he decided that that is what he wants to do so he can help others also going through traumatic times. It’s completely changed his perspective and he’s actually done some research and decided that’s what he wants to do” Vikki told us.

This has been a traumatic time for Vikki and her family however they have come through as a family and are on the path to a happier and better life.

If you would like to share your story or contribute to our blog and newsletter, we would be glad to hear from you. Please contact the fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk.

people standing outside a cafe smiling

Headway Essex Carers Week

At Headway Essex, we are here to make sure no one has to face living with an Acquired Brain Injury alone. When someone acquires a brain injury, often a wife, husband, partner or friend, finds himself or herself with an additional role of caring for a loved one. We understand the importance of supporting carers in their roles and during national carers’ week from 10th to 16th June, we try to show our appreciation for the amazing work they do.

Carers Week Brunch

On Friday 14th June, Headway Essex held a carers brunch at the ‘Back to the 60s’ cafe in Colchester. We think it is extremely important to listen to our carers and their stories and for them to gain peer support from other carers who know the problems they are experiencing. Just as importantly, it gives carers a chance to relax, in a social setting and to be themselves rather than someone’s carer.

Bernie and Pauline, two of our carers who attended the brunch, told us ‘the brunch was very enjoyable, it’s good to spend time with people in a similar situation to you in a friendly environment’. ‘It’s good to sit and chat in a social environment about other things as well as our carer roles’.

Another carer who attended said how it was ‘good to talk about the positives and negatives in a group of people who are also in a similar position to you and to get their support and opinion’.

Carers Need Care Too

All our groups are supported by a member of the Headway Essex Community Support Team, who can offer a wide range of support and advice to carers at any stage; from the hospital bedside to many years down the line. Our support worker commented on the event ‘It is nice to be able to look after them for a change and to offer an acknowledgement of the hard work and emotional effort that it takes to be a carer’.

The Headway Essex carers’ brunch is one of the many ways we support our carers, along with regular support groups, a helpline and face to face help and advice. If you would like to know more about Headway Essex’s support for carers, or support for adults with acquired brain injury, you can visit our website, email communitysupport@headwayessex.org.uk, or call 01206 845945.


Bernie and Pauline

Acquired Brain Injury – The Hidden Disability

2018 marks exactly 10 years since Pauline and Bernie’s son, Gary, suffered a traumatic brain injury. The exact date and time, 3 November 2008 9.45pm, will be etched on their minds forever. Gary was loving life and working at a tattoo studio at the time. After work, he left with a colleague to go and see a band play, but the music wasn’t quite to his liking, and so he left early. He was hurrying through the Tottenham Court Road Underground Station when he lost his footing on the stairs and hit his head so hard he was knocked unconscious. A passer-by called for an ambulance.

Emergency Surgery Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Gary was taken directly to The Royal London Hospital where he had to undergo emergency brain surgery to save his life having sustained three blood-clots in his brain. After spending two weeks in a coma, he was gradually woken up. Pauline and Bernie had been told to expect that Gary would have a long road to recovery, but nothing could prepare them for his reaction. “It was terrifying” recalls Pauline. “He was confused, angry, and pulling all his wires out at every opportunity”. In the end, nurses had to restrain Gary to keep him safe. “What I didn’t expect was the regression” adds Pauline. “Gary would plead with me to take him home and would say ‘I’ll be a good boy, mum’, when he was 40 year-old man living independently”.

Getting Back to Independent Living

As part of his recovery and to prepare him for independent living, Gary was transferred to the Blackheath Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre. It was a long road to recovery and took 10 months to return home. In the last month at BlackHeath, Gary lived in an independent flat. Here he had an almost deadly accident. He put a microwave meal on the length of time required for oven cooking and set fire to his flat. “Even to this day, he doesn’t remember the incident” says Pauline.

Perception of Danger

“He also doesn’t see danger” adds Pauline. He once turned up his local Headway meeting with a Viking sword to show fellow clients and he simply didn’t see the risk. “Once, we went up town and I noticed he was bleeding”, adds Pauline. Gary had accidentally cut the top of his finger off, but didn’t think to say anything to her even though it was a very deep cut. People also do not ‘see’ his brain injury. “Gary has some tattoos. People automatically make a judgment. They might think he is drunk or on drugs or that he has mental health issues. Nobody thinks ‘acquired brain injury’. It’s a hidden disability” adds Pauline.


It’s also very lonely. Gary is not the same person he was before his acquiring a brain injury. “Understandably, his friends found it difficult to relate to him and they gradually stopped seeing him. But when a person changes in such a big way, you can’t blame people for not being able to connect anymore”, says Bernie. “He also struggles to make new friends. His brother takes him shopping every Saturday and two Headway volunteers visit him each week, but other than that he doesn’t socialise”, says Pauline. Now, Pauline and Bernie take it in turns once a week to make the 120 mile round-trip by public transport to visit Gary and make sure he is ok.

Carer Support At Headway Essex


Life’s still very much a roller-coaster for Pauline and Bernie as well as Gary. But, as carers, they have found a great deal of support through Headway Essex. They were already familiar with Headway, as Gary has received support from Headway East London, so they reached out to Headway Essex. They’ve been accessing Headway Essex’s community support for several years now and find attending a Carers Support Group immensely beneficial. “Having other people to talk to who are caring for a loved one with a brain injury means you feel much less alone. They understand and you can speak freely about your challenges and frustrations as a carer”, says Pauline. “I would give Headway Essex 10 out of 10; it’s superb. If we hadn’t have got in contact we would have been very stuck. Not just with the emotional weight of things, but with all the complex paperwork that comes with caring” adds Bernie.


Being a carer and friend of Headway Essex for many years, Pauline now volunteers her time and helps at Support Groups where both clients and carers are in attendance. “I love volunteering at the groups. I feel part of something really important. Not only am I helping Headway Essex, I have a much clearer understanding on what it is like to be the person living with acquired brain injury. I know first-hand what it means to be a carer, but it’s really useful to learn more about the struggles clients have to contend with and the coping strategies they have in place to help them.”


Thank you Pauline and Bernie for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your moving story.

If you would like to share your story or contribute to a blog, please contact Molly Harmon on 01206 845945 or email molly.harmon@headwayessex.org.uk.


Small Charity Week Poster

Small Charity Week – Help Headway Essex!

Do you have and use social media? Do you love Headway Essex? From the 17th to the 22nd June we have an opportunity to not only raise awareness for Headway Essex but also win donations! If you love Headway Essex and want to help us win the Small Charity Week competition, DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE HERE.

How to help Headway Essex WIN the competition

The charity which manages to get the most individual messages of support on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook from June 17th -22nd June will receive a donation of £150.

Post a picture of you holding a sign saying “I love Headway Essex because (……enter your reason here…..)”. DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE HERE.

If you want to help but don’t have social media send your pictures to fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk and we can post them to help us win the competition.

Competition rules

The Twitter Competition

Tweet your photo message, or if you don’t have a camera, your message of love in less than 280 characters, making sure you include the @headwayessex and the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag. You must also mention @SCWeek2019 in your tweet so all of our entries are acknowledged and counted.

The Facebook Competition

Post your photo message, or if you don’t have a camera, your message of love, to the Small Charity Week Facebook wall, making sure you include @headway.essex name and the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag.

The Instagram Competition

Post your photo message to your Instagram account, making sure you tag @headwayessex and use the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag. You must also tag @SmallCharityWeek in your photo so all of our entries are acknowledged and counted.

(Entries will only count if posted between 17th – 22nd June and only one message is to be submitted for each competition per person. You are welcome to enter all across all three platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) with your message).

Together we can help Headway Essex win!

For more information please don’t hesitate to call our fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk.

colour 5k

Colour5K running tips for beginners

With only weeks to go until the Headway Essex Colour5K (29 June to be precise!) we appreciate that the Colour5K could be the first time you’ve run 5km in a while or ever! So, we’ve pulled together a few handy tips to help you prepare.

Getting you started

Don’t worry about how fast you can run; just remember the Colour5K is all about having fun with colour!
But, if you are looking to improve your endurance, you’ll need to build on your aerobic base first. We’re quite a fan of the NHS Couch to 5K plan, which is great run/walk routine that gradually builds-up your ability to run a 5K. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never run before or if you just want to become more active, the plan is a free and easy way of preparing ahead of the day!

You could also participate in your local parkrun, these are free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the country. For example, there’s a great one at Colchester Castle Park. As with the Colour5K, everyone is encouraged to join in and run at their own pace. You will need to register first though at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/form/

Your pre-Colour5K routine

On the day itself, Personal Trainer Matt Brinkley, will be leading all our wonderful Colour5K participants through a good warm-up routine. But, in preparing to run 5K ahead of the event, what warm-up exercises should you be introducing?
You’ll want to start introducing dynamic stretches before you run, including walking lunges, high knees to chest and straight-leg kicks to really stretch those hamstrings. Why is this so important? Well, it can significantly reduce the likelihood of an injury and strengthen your muscles. Stretching should last for around 10 minutes, after which you can either start with a brisk walk or a comfortable jogging pace, depending on your current fitness level.
Of course, you might want to walk the Colour5K, which is absolutely fine, but you’ll still want to do some stretching before you set off!
Don’t forget, it’s equally as important to stretch after your run. This NHS blog on how to stretch after a run has some fantastic images to show you how to do each stretch.

Buying the right gear

If you’re not a regular runner, you could always borrow some running gear, or just wear some loose cotton shorts or trousers and trainers.
Don’t forget though, at the Colour5K, you’ll get absolutely covered in coloured powder paint! But, no need to worry, as we provide a bright white Colour5K T-Shirt (in a variety of sizes) that’s waiting to be showered in colour! And best of all, it’s yours to keep…
The best tip of all though, is to enjoy it! We look forward to seeing you there and giving you your vibrant Colour5K medal as you cross the finish line.

If you haven’t already booked your place, register today at www.colour5k.co.uk

tony emms blog

The Colour5K, an event not to be missed!

The Colour5K, an event not to be missed!


For the 7th year in a row Headway Essex will be hosting the Colour5K on Saturday 29th June 2019. This year we are thrilled to have Attwells Solicitors as our event sponsor.

Whether you’re a casual walker or regular runner, want some fun or just want to raise money for charity, you will love this event. Runners come from all different backgrounds and have one thing in common; they love fun!

If running is not for you but you would still like to participate, you can register to become a colour bandit and take on the role of throwing paint at your friends and family.

The Colour5K experience

We spoke to Tony Emms, a trustee of Headway Essex and his daughter Paris, who have been taking part in the Colour5K for several years, about their experience of this event and how they’re preparing for this year.

Tony, who has been running for over 15 years, discovered Headway Essex through taking part in our Colour5K, after his brain operation in 2013. He initially volunteered for Headway Essex in 2015 and just a year later became a trustee. Tony told us what a fun event it is to be involved with. ‘One of our friends came and pushed her baby around in a pram all day just to be a part of this fantastic event!’ Paris added ‘it’s also great to do the Colour5K with friends and family, we always have such a good time and make sure to get plenty of photos on the day.’

We like to ensure our events are unique and memorable for everyone involved, Paris told us how much she ‘loves getting covered in coloured paint, it’s great fun’. Tony added ‘the paint throwing is fun and gives the run another dimension. You look forward to getting round to the next paint colour which are placed at every kilometer.’

Paris spoke to us about how she took part in the London Marathon this year too. ‘The Colour5K will be a great way for me to continue my running with my friends and family and have lots of fun doing it. I would like to try and improve my time for running a 5 kilometer distance and the Colour5K is a great place to start.’ Tony added ‘Paris has inspired me massively by completing the London Marathon so much so that I have applied for next year’s race, we are very proud of her.’

Raise money for a charity close to your heart

The Colour5K is also a great opportunity to raise money for charity. You can have a phenomenal day out participating in Headway Essex’s event and raise money for a charity close to your heart. Paris told us ‘my Dad and I have had fundraising pages before however our styles are slightly different! I used Justgiving and would share it on my Facebook page whereas Dad will email his contacts to let them know. It’s all raising money for a worthy local cause so it’s great we use multiple platforms. Our friends and family are very supportive which is great and there is a clear link to Headway Essex for me through my Dad being a trustee of the charity.’

Book your place

The Colour5K is a great event and one not to be missed. To book your place as a runner or as a colour bandit (and shower your friends and family with colour) visit www.colour5k.co.uk to sign up. If you would like further information on this event please email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or call 01206 547616.

old town office

We Are Moving…

We Are Moving…


With effect from Tuesday 7th May, the Headway Essex Town Office new address will be 6th Floor Annex, Wellington House 90-92 Butt Road, Colchester, Essex, CO3 3DA.


We are relocating from our premises at 58b Head Street, which has been our home for the last twenty years.


Looking Back


Over the last week, we have been busy packing up our office. It has been very nostalgic looking through files and remembering some amazing events we have put on and some amazing people we have met over the last 20 years. From Roman Romps and 1940s Dances to Atlas Mountain Treks, Pamper Evenings and Fashion Shows, it has been a fantastic trip down memory lane.


On the Move


Between 2nd and 3rd May, e-mail and the office phones at the Town Office will not be available. This effects the Community Support, Finance and Fundraising Teams. For urgent Community Support calls during this period, please contact 07500 751059. Office Phones and e-mails will be operational from Tuesday 7th May.


Looking Forward


We are looking forward to settling into our new home and excited about all the new experiences to come and the people we will meet along the way.


If you would like information about current fundraising events, or want to learn more about our services supporting adults with acquired brain injury and their families, please visit our website www.headwayessex.org.uk

social report

NEW: Social Impact Report 2018/19

NEW: Social Impact Report 2018/19

Our social impact is the expression and quantification of the positive changes we make to the lives of the people we support, which contribute to their overall health and wellbeing. Headway Essex is proud to launch its Social Impact report 2018/19, highlighting the support we provide and the achievements of our clients.

Headway Essex’s vision

Our vision is to see all adults in Essex living with the effects of acquired brain injury have the opportunity to realise their potential and lead a fulfilling life. Our social impact report explains, in plain English, how we are constantly striving to achieve our vision.

For those who are familiar with Headway Essex, they’ll already know that we take people from a place of surviving to thriving and that everyone has their own, unique journey.

Educating people about our approach

This is quite complex for people unfamiliar with Headway Essex’s work to understand. Therefore, we talk openly about the struggles as well as the positive outcomes in the report.

Clients, Bruce and Tara, have very kindly shared their stories within the report to explain what their journey looks like. This immediately helps put brain injury into perspective.

Key achievements

We have also used journey maps to highlight the range of services Headway Essex offers and pulled-out key feedback statistics from those who have exited our services.

We are proud to say:

86% of Headway Centre clients agree that with Headway Essex support, they’ve developed new strategies to cope with their brain injury.

85% of clients who exited our Community Support Service in 2017 said Headway Essex helped them understand the effects of their brain injury on themselves and others.

96% of clients surveyed said Headway Essex supported them through highs and lows

There are many more statistics within the report, which you can download here.

Funding matters

We are proud of our work and our clients. But, as like many charities, we have seen a significant fall in funding from local government and health bodies over the last five years.

In response to this, we have restructured our fundraising team to increase awareness, grow income and develop new fundraising resources. At the same time, we are raising funds to improve the services we deliver and reach more people across the whole of Essex.

The Social Impact Report will greatly assist the fundraising team in explaining to corporate supporters and fundraisers, what impact their efforts will make. It will also greatly assist our service managers in communicating how we help adults living with acquired brain injury.

If you would like to receive a hard copy of our Social Impact Report, or you would like to find out more about how you can support Headway Essex, please contact me; Tracy Wellsted, Fundraising Manager, by e-mail tracy.wellsted@headwayessex.org.uk or by calling  01206 547616.

Arabian Nights Ball A Night to Remember

Arabian Nights Ball – A Night to Remember

Arabian Nights Ball – A Night to Remember


We are still reeling from the success of our Arabian Nights Ball, inspired by Scheherazade’s 1001 Tales. The event raised over £20,000 to help adults with acquired brain injury and their families.

Our guests were treated to a fun packed evening of entertainment and dancing. The event was held on Friday 29 March, at the beautiful Stoke-by-Nayland Hotel of which the staff were very helpful and overall wonderful. Cllr Robert Needham was kindly our MC for the evening.

It was so lovely to see everyone having such a wonderful time and being so generous. We are so grateful to our sponsors, volunteers and guests for making this event such a success.


Impressive Entertainment

In line with the theme, there were some surprises in store. Dean Allen Jones provided the magic on the night to each of our guests both upon their arrival and at their tables and Soluna Dance kept the Arabian night’s theme alive with their performance. Also, everyone enjoyed live music from the impressive band Frisco Monk who kept us dancing all night long.


A Spectacular Auction & Raffle


The event included a raffle and auction kindly conducted by Richard Kemsley. Our guests enjoyed a little friendly competition for our spectacular array of prizes including a weekend for 6 people in a cosy coastguard’s cottage, a flight experience, a golfing break in the luxury Vale Hotel and much, much more!

Our Sponsors


We were lucky to have the support of some amazing sponsors including our main sponsors of the evening; BTMK Injury Solicitors and 42 Bedford Row. Our thanks also goes to Investec Wealth & Investment UK and The Cotswold Group who also supported us with generous sponsorship.

If you would like to know more about Headway Essex events or Sponsorship opportunities, please email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk


Colchester’s Colour5K 2019 launches with proud new sponsor!

We’re over the moon to announce that Attwells Solicitors will be sponsoring this year’s Colour5K event which will be held once again at Essex Showground on Saturday 29 June 2019.


Attwells new office in Colchester


We were fortunate enough to visit their new office in Colchester this week and meet some of the team who helped launch this year’s event.


Managing Partner, Nick Attwell said, “We are thrilled to be part of the Celebration of Colour with Headway Essex, being an integral part of the community is at the heart of the Attwells’ ethos and by working closely with charities, such as Headway Essex, we are able to support local people.”


Back for the seventh year running


The event which is now in its seventh year, seems to be getting bigger and better, runners will take on a 5 kilometre course and enter 5 colour zones, at every kilometre colour bandits will shower them with different coloured powdered paint until they end up their own work of art! There’ll also be a Kids 1 km Fun Run so the event is open to all ages and ability of runners.


This fun event is great to do with family, friends or colleagues. Runners will leave with paint in their hair and a massive smile on their faces.


At the finish line there is a huge colour extravaganza, where participants get to throw coloured paint at friends, family and anyone who wants to join in the fun!


Have fun and raise money for Headway Essex


Whether you’re a casual walker or regular runner, want some fun or just want to raise money for charity, you will love this event. Runners come from all different backgrounds and have one thing in common; they love fun!


Money raised from the event will go towards providing rehabilitation and support for brain injury survivors and their families and carers in Essex.


The event is also supported by Boot Group who each year donate the use of their field, the Ardleigh Showground.


Sign up today!


Entry is £22 for Adult, £16 Junior and £10 Kids 1 km run, there’s also a family ticket option available for £60 and discounts for teams of 10 or more. For more information and to book a place, visit the Headway Essex website www.headwayessex.org.uk or email: fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk

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