A WOMAN who thought she just a nasty bump on the head is preparing to run the London Marathon for the charity that helped her recover from a major injury.
When Faye Hetherington hit her head on the pavement while jogging, she went home to her parents’ house to rest for a couple of days. She had no idea she would never return to her job or flat ever again.
What she thought was just a bump turned into a four-year struggle with the lasting effects of a minor traumatic brain injury.
Now the 30-year-old will be running the London Marathon for Headway – the brain injury association, a charity that works to improve life after brain injury by supporting survivors and their families.
“Brain injury has been a four year hangover without the fun of the night before,” she said. “It stripped back my life and forced me to pause for a period of time when all I wanted to do was speed forward and get on with life.”
Four years ago, Faye was living in Shoreditch, working for a digital agency and living a busy, active life.
On a cold March morning she was doing sprint drills outside her home when she tripped and smashed her head on the pavement. She was with a friend who took her home.
“I remember waking up on my bed at 5am the next day, still wearing my running clothes,” she said. “I went to the bathroom and saw my face all battered and bruised. I had no idea what was going on.”
Faye decided to rest at her parents’ home in Evendons for two days and her mum drove to London to pick her up.
“As my mum drove me home, that’s when it hit me,” she said. “I had this really bad fogginess in my head. I was upset and confused. My face was swollen and I couldn’t open my eye.”
After a trip to A&E, Faye was told after two weeks rest she would be back to normal. But the weeks turned into a year and Faye’s life had completely changed.
“I was still living with my parents, unable to work and struggling to cope with the lasting effects of my injury,” she said.
“Nothing was showing up on my brain scans, and I found that hard because I knew that something was wrong. I started to think I was imagining it all.
“I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say or string sentences together. I was barely mobile. Just going to the toilet made me feel exhausted.”
Unable to explain how she felt to the people around her, Faye began to feel low and isolated.
“It was horrible, I was really low for a long time,” said Faye. “No-one really understood, not because they didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t articulate how I was feeling.
“I felt like I had this pressure on my brain and the only way to relieve it was to cry. But I wasn’t sad.
“It was really hard for my parents. They couldn’t understand what was going on.”
Around nine months after the accident, Faye started to receive support from her local Headway group in Thames Valley and says the charity’s support improved her life dramatically.
“They gave me and my family lots of advice and support. I started having home visits twice a week because travelling was such a struggle for me.
“Eventually, I was able to start attending a peer group. It was brilliant to talk to other people who could empathise with me.
“We would discuss how we were coping and share tips over a cup of tea. It meant so much to hear from other people going through similar challenges.”
Faye has since moved to Southwark and has learnt how to cope with the effects of her brain injury while working full time at an advertising agency.
“I still struggle every day with headaches and energy management,” she said. “I am so good at hiding my struggles that they even come as a surprise to me at the end of the day, when I completely crash out.
“Having had a headache for the past four years I am very used to it. I can struggle with the buzz of a busy agency, so I have to be ‘the serious one’ and put my earphones in and focus.
“But I’m so happy to be in a job I love and my colleagues are extremely supportive.”
Faye is challenging herself to take on the London Marathon to thank Headway and her family for their ongoing support.
“Without Headway helping get me back up from my fall, it would have been a very different, very scary journey back to recovery for all the family,” she said.
“I wanted to give back to Headway and make my family proud, I have put them through a lot these last few years.”
Cerys Beeby, Senior Community Fundraiser for Headway, said: “It’s wonderful to see how much Faye has achieved since her accident and we are extremely grateful that she is running the London Marathon for us.
“Thanks to fundraisers like her we can support other people and help them to come to terms with the effects of their brain injury.”