Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


Dunmurry man tells how charity - and family - helped him recover

How Michael got his life back on course after brain injury


Michael O'Neill who overcame a brain injury with the help of the Cedar FoundationA YOUNG man from Dunmurry has described how local charity `The Cedar Foundation' helped him get his life back on track after he suffered a serious brain injury in a road traffic accident seven years ago.

Michael O'Neill (19) spent four weeks of 2001 in hospital following the accident before returning home to face a slow recovery.

He can remember little about this period and eventually went back to school half way through the academic term.

Initially, he could not manage a full day and spent just a few hours in the classroom.

He found it difficult to catch up with his classmates and hard to get back into a school routine. He also experienced concentration problems and lost a great deal of confidence.

Despite these difficulties Michael, who recently became a father for the first time, is now planning a career in youth work.

This has been made possible by the devotion of his parents who cared for him 24 hours a day when he was discharged from hospital, as well as the help and support he received from the Foundation which develops and delivers services for disabled people including those with acquired brain injury. "When I first started with the Cedar Foundation in 2005 I met a member of staff and they asked me what I would like to do." he said. "I didn't really know and after a lot of help and time going through different options I decided I would like to find out more about a career in youth work."

The Foundation helped Michael obtain the necessary qualifications. He undertook work placements and even spent time with the organisation on a voluntary basis in order to identify aspects of youth work he wished to concentrate on.

Michael, who hopes to obtain his OCN Level Three later this year, expressed his gratitude to the Foundation for the support and advice it has provided.

"It has helped me develop as a person and I would say it does a lot for its service users. I would have to say the staff have really encouraged me to progress," he added.

The Dunmurry man also spoke of his gratitude to his family and especially his parents for the care and support they have given him.

"My mum and dad were on a 24 hour day making sure I was okay," he continued. "They received support from other family members and my friends who constantly sent their best wishes."

The Cedar Foundation chose the theme 'A Life less Ordinary - Train for Life' during Brain Injury Awareness Week which took place recently.

Its Head of Brain Injury Services Elaine Armstrong explained the organisation teamed up with Health Matters to run training days across Northern Ireland.

She said these sessions targeted ordinary skills that were all the more important for those who had survived a brain injury and were re-training for "work, life and living.

"This included accredited training in stress awareness, first aid and health and safety," she concluded,

Ulster Star