'If Not Now - When?' the story of Geoff, a gentleman who fell down the stairs and incurred a massive head injury.
This is a project based on the story of my step father - Geoff. Geoff fell down the stairs in September 2008 and incurred a massive head injury and stroke. We never knew if the stroke was the cause or the result of the fall as he was never able to remember.
From the day of the fall we, as a family, made a documentation of everything that happened in the form of diaries, letters, drawings and photographs. This continued throughout the following years with Geoff joining in himself writing both his life story and personal entries into his diary. What started off as being a creative coping mechanism for our family turned out to be a beautiful insight into the mind of someone with a serious head injury and the people who cared for him.
The head injury prematurely aged his brain and he was found to have a form of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and it was decided he would be better in a specialist home as he mood changes were becoming so erratic. With his permission, I continued to document his life using his old camera to capture what life was like for him. With the help of photographs, music and the books we read to him we would be able to coax out parts of the 'old Geoff' so we could still talk about the old days and witness his fantastic character and humour.
Sadly in January 2013 he had another massive stroke and heart attack and it was decided that we had to 'let him die' which is what he had requested. Following a very distressing time in the hospital we were finally able to bring him back to the care home that he had become so fond of for the last two years so he could die in peace.
The book itself covers the time from the accident up until a year after as it mattered to me to document how difficult life after death can be for the people involved in both social and work scenarios. One of the things I noticed when going through all of these things, was that there was a very small amount of literature and support for people going through this. What this book will do is show the light and the dark of caring for someone who is very ill from both perspectives of the person who is ill themselves and the family who care for them - it is a beautifully honest documentation giving people advice on we coped when times became increasingly difficult and very scary - quite often using humour to keep us a float as our family has always done. It explains, in depth, the concerns for end of life care in this country and the correct and assertive (yet polite) way of dealing with a complaint within our hospital system where you see impressive results. I also talk about the sensitive subject of talking to someone after a loved one has died, showing it not as weird and frightening as you might think - sometimes just showing up at their house with a pizza and a dvd is exactly what that person needs.
I co own a small Derbyshire based creative company, consisting of just two of us. We design and make bespoke orders using recycled and reclaimed materials and us half of the profit to run creative workshops, for free, to charities local to Derbyshire. Currently we help Headway, Making Space, Derby women's Centre and Air art. We run simple workshops consisting of little projects which are shaped to the people involved. We spend time with each of the people creating something that will suit them personally - working with small groups of 6 - 10 at a time giving them the option to bring their partners or children.
Where will the money go?
With your support we will be able to publish enough copies of this book to be used within hospitals, universities, schools and charities through out England. Due to the way it is written, including so many photographs and illustrations, it will mean that people effected by any of the illnesses will be able to get something from it. This book we will use within our workshops and will be donating copies to the charities we help.
Due to the wonderful out comes of our workshops they have caused much more interest with more people asking for our help all the time - your money will mean that we can increase these workshops and bring in more people to help. It will pay for creative materials and supplies - as we are not for profit - we rely entirely on donations and it would be brilliant if we could buy some more supplies specific to the projects our clients want to do.
Anything that you can donate will be amazing and will help us out incredibly. It matters a great deal that people suffering with these conditions are given the opportunity to live life to their own potential and, with your help, we can keep this going for as long as possible.
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Annie has been involved with Headway Derby since her Step-Father, Geoff, was a member of the charity. She is an active supporter of our organisation in many ways. In 2014, Annie held an exhibition of photography at Headway Derby to raise funds in memory of her Step-Father, the event was well organised and very popular, raising over £350 in just a few hours!
Annie has a genuine commitment to supporting people with acquired brain injuries, currently her company Whiffle Pig is delivering free workshops for the people that we support, encouraging them to tell their own stories in a variety of person centred, creative ways.
Through her own personal experiences, Annie has a deep understanding of how lives can be affected by brain injuries. Because of this, and her genuine character, she engages really well with our members, who find her dedication and enthusiasm really inspiring.
Paul Clarke, Service Delivery Manager - Headway Derby
No planning permission was ever requested for my professional wall but it has been quietly constructed over the past few years, silently doing its job of sheltering me from the painful elements of a sudden loss by trauma, stroke or infection or the slow stealing by dementia or MS. The advance is insidious: people become patients. It starts with not dwelling on a patient dying, but quickly builds to a death meaning one less job that day. Whilst that didn't go unnoticed, I wrote off the inherent inhumanity as necessary to get through the day without blubbing like a fountain.
I first met Geoff at the Derby City General Hospital (now The Royal Derby Hospital) during his admission to King’s Lodge Neurological Rehabilitation Unit for a brain injury. Despite his condition, his charm, heart for his family and his passion for singing were so evident.
It was no single picture that broke me, but together, their beautiful and concerted effort dismantled my professional wall to see the literal points of view of Geoff and those who held him dear. These warm and engaging pictures concisely capture a story of loss and remains and love. The sudden, the attrition and the enduring.
Back on the wards, I am not blubbing. It turns out Annie didn’t totally dismantle the wall: she just put in some very large windows.
Tim Hardman. Derbyshire NHS.