Phil N

I call myself ‘a huggy person’ because I love life. I was very lucky because a lot of people with brain injuries get a massive change in their personality, while mine is very similar to what it was. Except I became a much more loving person.

When I turned 13, I suddenly started having migraines which were actually mild brain haemorrhages but no-one knew. My injury happened while I was a PhD student and I was out for a Christmas Party when I got a really nasty migraine.

It was an Arteriovenous Malformation, which is dodgy veins in the brain. I ended up going into a coma for 4 days. I didn’t know who my family were and I didn’t really know what the real world was.

I suffer from pain 24 hours a day. The injury gave me the after-effects of a stroke including paralysation on one whole side of my body. I have to take a train because if I take the bus when it stops, I keep going.

I had to basically completely change the direction of my life because I was aiming to be a pilot one day. The difficult thing is I can’t stand up for up for long periods of time, and I can’t read very well.

I walked in to the Job Centre and felt very lost, like I wasn’t really wanted. They sent me to Attend and I had a meeting with Kieran and suddenly felt like I was cared for.

I came into job club on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Attend is good for me because it gets me out of the house. Staying in drives me absolutely insane. At home I was getting lost on the computer because with my visual damage the website was like a black hole. I’ve always worked better in an office than at home, so I find that I spend more time on a computer at Attend than at home.

It’s been brilliant because I’ve learnt things about myself that I didn’t know. I had a meeting with David and he was explaining that in the way I talked, I kept on apologising. I was like ‘do I? I didn’t know, sorry’ and I never realised it until David told me. It is very important to understand yourself.

I never actually had an interview before so I got interview skills that were very helpful.

Because I couldn’t be a pilot any longer I had to find a new hobby. I heard about the charity Tall Ships Youth Trust that takes kids from rough areas or people from deprived families out to sea. I went for a day sail and I realised I loved it. I couldn’t be a pilot but I could be a sailor.

Insofar, I’ve been on two major voyages that lasted a week each. I have just booked to go on another in the upcoming month where we will be travelling from Plymouth to Liverpool! My role is ‘deck hand’ and my job is to go aloft into the mast and wait for the kids to come up. From there, I will guide them onto the actual sail and teach them what they are supposed to be doing. It’s such a rewarding experience!

Volunteering gets you out of the house and gets you doing things. That’s the most important thing. Plus, it was through work experience that I got my first job.

I’ve realised that life is good and everyone should enjoy it fully. Try every opportunity that there is to try.