Fife charity Headway relaunches with support from Barbara Dickson

ltr Barbara Linton, Maria Burnett, Barbara Dickson, Donna Hodge, Alastair White. Pictures by George McLuskie.
ltr Barbara Linton, Maria Burnett, Barbara Dickson, Donna Hodge, Alastair White. Pictures by George McLuskie.

Headway Fife, the charity set up in 1989 to help people who have suffered a brain injury, their family and friends, was relaunched in Kirkcaldy last week, with the help of popular singer Barbara Dickson.

Barbara, who hails from Dunfermline, joined special guests, health professionals and other organisations and charities at a special event at the Victoria Hotel.

It featured the unveiling of a new directory detailing all the brain injury services available in the region, compiled with the held of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.

And the occasion was also an opportunity for Headway Fife to recognise the remarkable service of Barbara Linton, the lady who chaired the local group for the past 21 years and who recently retired from her post.

Headway was set up to offer advice and support to those with any type of brain injury - be it traumatic, caused by an accident, or through illness.

In Fife it began with a small group meeting at the staff club at Victoria Hospital to share experiences, advice and coping mechanisms with others going through similar journeys.

Donna Hodge, chairman

Donna Hodge, chairman

Over the years, membership has grown and waned and there are now around 12 regulars who attend either on their own or with their carers or family.

The group holds a monthly social meeting at Linton Lane Centre in Kirkcaldy, and offers a designated pick-up service in a wheelchair adapted bus which covers Leven, Glenrothes, Lochgelly and Kirkcaldy.

As well as offering information and advice for new members, the meetings can also include guest speakers, outings or just a game of cards and a blether.

Donna Hodge, the group’s new chairman, said: ““Unfortunately because of restricted funds we cannot afford to provide transport for the whole of Fife. Transport is very expensive to lay on and that takes up a big part of our budget.”

“We do a lot of activities from home safety talks by the police to crafts, and our members have made fused glass photo frames which we sell for funds. We have also done ceramic plat painting, visited the Scottish Parliament, and we sometimes go out for meals, visit other charities, go horse riding or go to the pantomime at Christmas.

“Some people don’t come to every meeting and that’s fine - they will maybe just come along to particular events like our tenpin bowling competitions.”

Alastair White of Headway UK told guests the Fife group was one of 13 in Scotland.

Headway UK is there to help the groups develop services. This includes providing information and lobbying politicians and the police for appropriate support for people with brain injuries, with groups in Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire currently involved in a pilot scheme of ID cards for people with head injuries.

It is also trying to bring about a change in the law on compulsory wearing of cycling helmets, with members going out to schools to get the message home.

Barbara Linton told the Press got involved after she and her late husband were injured in a motorbike crash which left him with a brain injury which changed his life.

“It was a difficult time as his personality changed with the accident, and he eventually had to give up his job,” she explained.

They joined the support group, which was looking for help at the time and soon became part of the committee, serving as its chairman for 21 years.

“There is as much need for the support we offer as when we started and I know there are lots of people around Fife who don’t know we are here.

“It can be a frightening time coming out of hospital with your life completely unrecognisable from what it was, and we are there to help in that journey.”

Imagine one split second which completely turns your world upside down.

That’s what happened to Cardenden man Ian Seivewright the day he decided to take a shortcut through an industrial estate as part of his work as a builder and ended up falling 10 feet.

Ian landed on his head and the impact resulted in a brain injury which was not immediately picked up on, as he was ferried between hospitals in Dunfermline and Edinburgh.

“I had a big blood clot on the side of my head which was missed as I was being treated for lots of broken bones,” he told the Press.

The injury in 1988 left Ian confused and disorientated, suffering from mood swings and exacerbating the glaucoma he had suffered from his teenage years, which led to sight loss in his left eye.

Eventually after 11 months in the wilderness he and his long-suffering wife were pointed in the direction of Headway Fife which opened a door to them, helping them to understand and share what he was going through and allowing them to get the support of families in the same position.

“It was good to find somewhere I could get answers to my questions and speak to people who were going through the same things as me,” he said.

Susan McGrath (41) from Lochgelly was a front seat passenger in a car which was involved in a crash when she was 16, leaving her with a serious brain injury.

She was put in touch with Headway by Fife Council and went along to her first meeting in 1995.

Since then she hasn’t looked back and is one of the regular members of the group where she has made many friends.

“I go along with my mum and we really enjoy all the activities it has,” she said. “It is good to meet and mix with people who are facing the same kind of challenges as yourself, and to share the ways we deal with them.”