Debbie’s story

"Without warning, Debbie had a sever cardiac arrest"

Six years ago Debbie was a promotions manager, working full time in London and enjoying her life. Despite knowing there was a history of heart disease in her family, this wasn’t something that Debbie worried too much about, after all, she was only 36.

But then without warning, Debbie had a sever cardiac arrest, during which her brain was starved of oxygen and this resulted in a brain injury which left Debbie unable to walk or do any of those usual day to day things that we all take for granted.

After the initial injury Debbie moved into a rehabilitation unit where she very slowly started her recovery. However, she was never expected to walk again, let alone live independently and take care of herself. “I was really angry and frustrated. I kept asking ‘why me?’” says Debbie now.

Debbie was desperate to confound her prognosis and get her life back. But this wasn’t going to be easy as after rehab the only place she could live was with her mum in a house that she couldn’t move around and without the opportunity to re-learn those independent living skills.

Debbie’s social worker helped her find Berryfields, a specialist brain injury supported housing scheme in Colchester and she was successful in gaining a placement. The scheme is made up of eight, self-contained bungalows around a shared office and lounge area and staff are on hand for any support needs.

When Debbie first moved in she needed two members of staff just to help her have a shower but the sense of independence was really motivating; “I’m very stubborn and determined which massively helped my rehabilitation. You’ll stagnate without pushing yourself and if anyone said to me ‘You can’t do that’, I’d think, watch me!”.

Slowly but surely Debbie’s confidence and ability grew; “At the beginning of my time at Berryfields, I had sleep-in support for a month as I was sleepwalking a lot. Staff helped me re-learn basic skills like cooking and cleaning but however difficult, I always knew the staff were on hand if I needed them. I worked day and night to learn how to tie my shoelaces and the day I managed to make my own bed was really special”.

If Debbie hadn’t found a place at Berryfields, she would have had to move in with her mum into a property that would have been entirely unsuitable for her recovery. She wouldn’t have been able to re-learn those vital skills she needed to live independently and would never have reached the stage she’s at now.

Debbie is very clear that all these developments in her skills were in large part down to the support she received at Berryfields “It’s the most amazing security and the support is priceless. I know how super lucky I am and I wish everyone’s rehabilitation could be this successful. I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’ve done had I not moved in here and the staff have been patent, compassionate and second to none – they are like my family now”.

Help raise awareness

Thousands of people have gained their independence through supported housing. The Starts at Home campaign aims to ensure that people who need extra support will always have a home that meets their needs.

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