Usman A

Between the years of 2005-2011, I was preoccupied with many things. I had finished my masters degree in Radio at the University of Surrey and had gone on to work for a number of companies including working at the O2 Arena and working as an Audio Visual technician. I also did a lot of charity work in between. All of these job roles and positions were linked to my chosen future career in Radio which I was determined to get into and I found that I was doing really well. For instance, I was volunteering at Whitechapel AM, the hospital radio station, then became their award co-ordinator and finally their CEO. 2011 was the year where I was too ill to continue working.

It became apparent that something was wrong when I started to get fazing moments – a feeling of disorientation and fuzziness. It’s a difficult feeling to explain but it would be the equivalent of watching a movie, leaving the room for one or two minutes, then coming back to the same movie having it moved forward ten minutes and you’re wondering how the film moved on so much in such a short time.

I, then, started to experience seizures. The worst one was when I was with a colleague and we were going down the escalator and I had a seizure at that moment of time. I passed out and fell forward and down the escalator and hurt her. I had another seizure at a time where my mother’s cousin (a consultant in Cambridgeshire at an NHS Trust) was staying with us. He witnessed me having a seizure and wrote a letter to the GP who sent for me to have an MRI scan. When I went to the scan, the technician spotted a tumour on the right side of my brain. I remember the whole ordeal being very stressful and traumatic. It happened during a time where I had just lost my job, my wife was heavily pregnant, and my grandfather’s health had deteriorated.

It was the 30th November 2009 (15 days after my son was born) when I had my surgery; it was a craniotomy which allows the doctors to take a deeper look at the tumour to make sure they knew what they were dealing with. In the end, they found out that the tumour was not something they could not get rid of. It can’t be removed because if it were, I would lose my communication and coordination. The tumour is with me for life.

Following from that, I was treated with anticonvulsive medicine in 2010-2011. My life consisted of taking medicine; going to doctors; seeing lots of consultants; having check-ups with neurosurgeons who would scan my brain every four months; and seeing my neurologist who would give me my medicine and observe any behavioural changes. When the tumour started becoming aggressive, I was given 6 weeks of radiotherapy. After that, I was on steroids for a month. Steroids make you very hungry and so I ballooned from 16 stones up to 18 stones.

Due to the tumour, I am an epileptic and still get seizures. I don’t have full seizures, I have partial seizures which I would describe as moments where I fade in and out of reality. When these occur, I can get intense feelings of pressure in both temples and it feels as if somebody has locked my jaw. If I was holding something, my hand would shake and I may drop the object. I can also ask others a question that is completely off centre.

In terms of the social consequences, I was at home a lot and hadn’t been doing anything with my life. I was just getting fat and playing solitaire for days on end. My friends would come and meet me but it didn’t feel like we had the same level of friendship as we did before my tumour. They would ask ‘Hey, how are you?’, as opposed to ‘Hey, we’re going out now!’. Questions always revolved around my health and after a while, you start to fake your answers. I’d answer ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ but really, I was bored of the questions that had no substance anymore.

It was March 2012 when I came to Attend. I was referred by my Disability Employment Advisor at the Job Centre who told me about Attend’s Employment Programme. When I arrived, Anthony, Kieran and David were the ones who worked on directly helping me. Anthony and Kieran helped me to develop my CV – which is now a million times better. As for David, he was my mentor and he understood me very well. He saw things from my position and helped me to build up a level of confidence. Furthermore, he taught me not to get lost in a world where I would be discouraged from getting out of bed. He was an immense help.

Attend also got me out of the house. It allowed me to become a person again. The personality I had prior the tumour had returned after coming to Attend. In other words, Attend helped me a lot with the behavioural aspects of my life and I’ll say this, after three weeks, I felt very at home here. Normally, in a few places of work I would feel very comfortable but I was extremely happy here. The staff are fabulous. They really care.

Currently, I am working at the BBC – with Attend having helped me with my application. The BBC run a course called ‘Extend’ whereby they offer a number of placements for suitable/highly qualified disabled persons. I am working there on a six month contract and my title is ‘Studio Manager and Operations Assistant’.

My role requires me to record live material to be used for programmes that are broadcasted to Africa, or anywhere around the world for that matter. Insofar, I’ve had ten pieces on air that I have put together. For this, I call people up, set up the studio and conduct sound checks. I’m very happy here. I work in a great team with everyone respecting one another and I believe that working at the BBC has been my ‘Mount Everest’. It’s my dream job. The way I see it is that seven thousand people have applied for thirty-two positions and I secured one of them.

For the future, I hope to stay at the BBC and get a permanent job offer. I have work-related objectives to help me achieve this. For example, I wish to broaden my social network, attend the career development programme that they run there, and learn more about different areas that I might want to go into, i.e. broadcast technology, live streaming and so on.