Hartlepool dad who suffered brain injury launches charity branch to help others

Jonathan and Mary Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID
Jonathan and Mary Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

A Hartlepool dad who fought back to health after he suffered a devastating brain injury is aiming to help others by launching a branch of the charity which helped him.

Dad of two Jonathan Purnell, 50, of Headland, suffered a blow to the back of the head during a game of rugby in Sedgefield 25 years ago resulting in a haemorrhage and a stroke.

Jonathan and Mary Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan and Mary Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Aged just 24 at the time, the once active young man had a long road to recovery as he struggled to find an organisation which would help him achieve his goals after being discharged from hospital.

“When I had my head injury in 1990 it was like the dark ages,” Mr Purnell said.

“Once I was discharged from the NHS I went out into the community - but community services weren’t ready for me. I wanted to live independently, but needed a service which would help me do so.

“I am now totally independent. I am married to my wife Mary and have two children. This charity is set up to help people have a better quality of life.

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

“I am not criticising the NHS, but there needs to be a community-based service for people living in the community with a brain injury, who want a better quality of life.

“Things like catching a bus can be a massive ordeal. Reading the timetables can take quite a bit of organisation and these are skills that can be taught again.

“It has taken me 13 years to get where I am and that is too long.”

Last year Mr Purnell contacted charity Real Life Options which launched an organisation Aspire which later became Headway - a charity dedicated to supporting those with brain injury.

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan has since returned to his job as a community worker employed at the Centre for Independent Living, Havelock Centre.

He is now due to set up a branch of Headway in Hartlepool to help people who have been through similar life-changing events.

It will aim to help people who have to help those who have suffered a brain injury, trauma or stroke.

The launch event on October 15 will see guest speakers from a range of areas including health experts and sufferers tell about their experiences.

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

“It is a really exciting time for people with brain injury,” Mr Purnell added.

“I consider myself to be fully recovered but there are still people struggling with the effects of brain injury.

“But you can achieve short term goals - this is a starting point for people.”

Support network

A branch of the charity Headway will be launched in Hartlepool on October 15 at the West Hartlepool Rugby Football Club to help those who have suffered a brain injury, trauma or stroke.

The charity which has branches across the North East will work with those individuals in Hartlepool to help them achieve realistic goals such as returning to work or being able to do activities independently.

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Kicking off at 9.30am the launch will see guest speakers John Brekkin, consultant from the department of neurosciences at James Cook Hospital; regional charity coordinator Alastair White, on life after brain injury and what the charity offers.

As well as brain injury survivors Tracey Connelly and Jonathan Purnell - to speak about their road to recovery after head injury.

The event will also feature a talk from a carers point of view by Sue Harrison on her caring role for her husband Ian after his brain injury.

Naughton Solicitors, from Seaham - a personal injury claim solicitors-support the charity and will attend the event.

The service will work by holding monthly meetings at its premise on Eshness Court and professionals will work with suffers to help them achieve short-term goals.

For more information visit: https://www.headway.org.uk/

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Purnell. Picture by FRANK REID