‘Awe-inspiring’ Danny named finalist for national award

 

A Gloucestershire man who sustained a brain injury that left him unable to walk or cope with leaving the house has been shortlisted for a national award after rebuilding his life.

Danny Reeves, 44 and from Cheltenham is one of just three people from across the UK to be named a finalist for the Headway Annual Awards in the Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year category.

Before the injury Danny’s life was ticking along nicely. Aged 35, he was newly married to Ruth and they had not long had their first child Oscar.

The couple were running their own business, holding the license for The Pheasant Pub just outside Cheltenham.

Danny was a sociable guy having always been in the license trade and he worked in many busy pubs, including in London. He was a proactive ‘doer’ who enjoyed exercise, specifically biking and snow-boarding.

But things changed dramatically in Sept 2009 when he contracted encephalitis after a nasty bout of chicken pox.

After several weeks in hospital he was discharged to home, and life was completely unrecognisable.

The injury to his brain had affected his cognition and mobility and he became reliant on using a wheelchair.

He also suffered regular bouts of severe anxiety, depression, and debilitating head pain. He was hypersensitive to most stimulus, needing to wear sunglasses inside and out throughout the day.

Due to the strains of living with the consequences of Danny’s injury, the couple lost the pub and their occupations. Their house was not adapted for a wheelchair user so in his post-acute injury phase he spent his days stuck upstairs in bed whilst Ruth had to balance his needs amongst their young sons.

When the couple found brain injury charity Headway Gloucestershire in 2011 they were at crisis point.

But with the support of his wife and the charity based on Great Western Road in Gloucester, Danny slowly rebuilt his life.

“When I arrived at Headway I was a broken shell of a man, After I had left hospital there were some very dark times, but headway helped to shine a light and guided me to a better place.” said Danny.

“I had lost my identity in many ways, my whole life and how I saw myself; my place in the world was changed forever and I was mourning the life I lost.

“I had lost all my confidence and I was scared of my shadow. I felt very isolated. But day by the day Headway helped me take small steps to get better.

“They made me realise that I should not focus on what had gone but what was in front of me  – not what I couldn’t achieve but what I could.

“I just thought, for my family, I need to keep going, keep pushing myself to get better.  I owe much to Headway but also so much to my wife too. She has been so patient and shown me such love ”

Danny, like so many others with brain injury, experienced a roller coaster of health issues for a good few years. He was found to have a hormone disorder that had impacted on his fatigue greatly and he suffered another bout of encephalopathic illness in October 2015 where his early brain injury symptoms resurfaced.

Shortly after his injury Danny talked about owning an arm bike or similar but with his fluctuating health problems the goal remained unmet for many years.

However in 2016, Danny took part in a local parkrun event – which encourages people around the world to take part in an informal run in their local park.

Danny began to exercise and really pushed himself, going to training every week.  This determination has lead to him being able to complete a 10k event, and in October, he even took part in Cheltenham’s half marathon.

Danny said taking part in the race was a very emotional day.

He said: “Around two miles in I saw Ruth on the sidelines. She had tears in her eyes, but they weren’t of sadness, they were of happiness. When I saw that, it really hit me, it gave me the strength to keep going.”

Danny was nominated for the he accolade, which is sponsored by Slater and Gordon Solicitors, by Headway Gloucestershire’s Fiona Barnes.

Fiona said: “Danny has pushed himself and shown such determination and courage

“I happen to go to the same training session on a Thursday night and to see someone you know is seriously challenging themselves, and accomplishing so much in what they are doing is truly inspiring.

“He has been so brave and has worked so hard to continue to take small steps in his recovery. I really hope he wins the award.”

Each year, Headway Annual Awards celebrates the exceptional efforts of survivors of brain injury and their carers.

Danny will discover if he is to be named Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year at a glittering ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel, in London, on Friday 8 December.

Danny said he was in shock about being nominated.

He said: “It has come completely out of the blue. I’m really looking forward to the night. I used to walk past the Dorchester when I lived in London – I never thought that one day I would be in there up for an award.”

Awards for Volunteer and Carer of the Year will also be presented, alongside the Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award.

 

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