How Michael got his life back on
course after brain injury
by NEIL GREENLEES
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
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
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
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
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
"This included accredited training in stress
awareness, first aid and health and safety," she concluded,