Moya Murphy (43) from Rostrevor suffered a brain haemorrhage eleven years ago this month.
After needing emergency brain surgery and being put on life support, her parents were told that if she survived she would need 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
Against all odds Moya has learnt how to walk, eat and read again and is now living independently. Moya credits much of her determination to recover and take on new challenges, to the support she has received at Head Injury Support, who have recently received funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
In 2005 Moya was 32 and working as a sales rep when she suffered a brain haemorrhage, which caused brain damage. Moya is a single parent and her son Michael was five years old at the time.
Moya said: “I was told the brain haemorrhage was random but looking back I think I was very stressed at work when I started getting the bad headaches. One day I had a particularly bad headache so I went to the doctors and they sent me straight to the Royal Victoria Hospital… that’s when my brain started to bleed. I was lucky because they were able to rush me straight into surgery.”
Moya had brain surgery three times, including having part of her skull removed and placed in her stomach to relieve pressure on her brain. She was in an induced coma, put on life support and developed pneumonia, septicaemia and MRSA.
She said: “At the time my parents were told that if I survived I would be in a nursing home for the rest of my life, I would need 24-hour care — but in the last year I’ve been able to move out into my own house with my son so I’ve made a massive recovery.”
Moya had to learn to walk again because she had left-sided paralysis had to learn to swallow again after being tube fed for three months. She was in hospital for six months and really missed being at home with her son Michael.
“I have a large family so I had a great support system to help me through recovery and to look after Michael. He was only five at the time, so it was hard for him to deal with but he is almost 17 now and he is always saying how proud he is of what I have achieved. My parents were fantastic, they never let me see the pain and trauma they were suffering — I drew such strength from them.”
When Moya returned home to her parents’ house she found there were no local support organisations to go to, until Head Injury Support formed in 2008. They have recently received funding from Big Lottery Fund and have a centre in Newry for survivors of brain injury and their carers.
Moya said that Head Injury Support gave her a more positive outlook on life and added: “The centre is like a family and the families or carers of the members are very involved as well. Because it’s not only the person with the head injury who is traumatised, it’s the whole extended family. They lose a part of the person and very often that person doesn’t come back — I’d say it’s taken me 10 years to start feeling like myself again.
“Before the brain haemorrhage I was an adventurous person… I had trekked in the Amazon Rainforest… and I never thought I’d have the ability to be that person again. But Head Injury Support organised for me to go gliding, horse riding and do a zip line which I would never have attempted to do on my own. I also love doing arts and crafts at the centre.”
Head Injury Support gave Moya the confidence to apply to college. She has just finished a diploma in social and life sciences with a distinction and she plans to do a degree in psychology. Moya wants to use her experiences to be a brain injury counsellor and help other survivors through their recovery.
Moya said: “I feel very proud of myself and every day I feel grateful for my life. I’m very lucky that I survived and that my son still has a mother. I can’t thank the doctors and Head Injury Support enough for my recovery and I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for the support of my family and the faith they have had in me.”
Big Lottery Fund has recently awarded a £179,234 grant to Head Injury Support to run a social enterprise which will help survivors of brain injury, like Moya, with their physical recovery, improve their mental health and help them become part of the community again.
This is part of an announcement of £1,877,911 to six projects in Northern Ireland from the People and Communities programme. (see separate table for full list of awards)
Siobhan Murphy, centre manager for Head Injury Support said: “People who have suffered a brain injury are at high risk of social isolation. We offer a place to go to which gives them a purpose, structure to their day and gets them out of the house while forming new friendships.
“As part of the Big Lottery Fund project our members will be supported to learn new craft skills and improve on their own strengths and talents in order to make products to sell to the community. It also offers valuable respite for carers and they will have the opportunity to take part in activities as well.”
Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “I am delighted to announce this grant to Head Injury Support under the People and Communities programme, which is investing £60 million over the next five years to support voluntary, community and social enterprise groups to work with local people to make the changes they want in their communities.
“We want to fund great projects that work with local people, build on a community’s strengths, and are well connected to other services and activities in the community. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact these projects will make to people and communities across Northern Ireland.
“Remember this programme is open for five years so groups have plenty of time to work with local people to develop their project idea. You can call our People and Communities advice line on 0300 123 33 31 at any stage to discuss your idea.”
The People and Communities programme offers grants of between £30,000 and £500,000 for two to five year projects.
More information can be found on the website: