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How support helped Sam Norris to study during lockdown

Teenage speedway rider Sam Norris has spoken of the support he received to help him study at home with a brain injury during lockdown, to mark Headway’s campaign for Action for Brain Injury Week.

Headway’s ‘A life of lockdown?’ campaign during 17-23 May focuses on social isolation after brain injury – a problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign aims to give a voice to survivors and carers to help them better explain to their friends and families the challenges they face as a result of brain injury.

Sam is a 17-year-old speedway rider from Linton, near Haverhill, who suffered a life-threatening brain injury in a crash in Glasgow in June 2019, but his incredible recovery and determination saw him back on a bike just eight months later.

After returning home from intense rehab to continue his recovery, Sam went back to school to complete his final year and GCSEs, but soon had to get used to home studying as lockdown began.

Sam had help from his mum Claire and the Cambridge Centre for Paediatric Neuropsychological Rehabilitation (CCPNR) – the first NHS community-based service in the UK offering assessment and neuropsychological rehabilitation for children with an acquired, non-progressive brain injury as a result of an accident, injury, illness or other condition.

He said: “Throughout lockdown I was lucky enough to be supported by the CCPNR. I had weekly Microsoft teams meetings around supporting and managing my fatigue and emotions and looking and understanding how it affected me physically, emotionally, and cognitively.

“Things suddenly appeared to make sense as it is hard to understand why you feel the way you do as I felt okay within myself most of the time.

“I still walk and talk differently now. My eyes display when I am fatigued and the way I speak alters and I have a language disorder.

“My thought process slows down, but I fight it every step of the way, but to people who do not know the old Sam they would never know what I have been through.”

After passing two of his exams, Sam is now studying motor mechanics at Cambridge Regional College and plans to move up to level 2 in September.

“Lockdown was hard looking at a screen three days a week as it affected my fatigue,” he added, “so I am glad we are sort of getting back to normal.”

Sam and Claire made their first public speaking appearance at Headway Suffolk’s Neuro Conference on 12 May.

The video of their speech is available to purchase for £15 to support the charity’s services.

The three-hour video also features presentations made at the conference from Dawn Astle, a prominent campaigner to prevent dementia in football, Dr Sajid Alam, the stroke lead at Ipswich Hospital, and Ellen Boucher, researcher at the University of East Anglia’s SCORES project.

To buy, call 01473 712225 or email info@headwaysuffolk.org.uk.

For more on Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week campaign, visit www.headway.org.uk/isolation.