Headway Suffolk

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Life now for Sam Norris ahead of Conference speech

Claire Norris has spoken of the frustrations that living with a brain injury can bring while remaining positive at the continued progress in recovery.

Claire is the mother of Sam Norris – the 17–year-old Suffolk speedway rider who suffered a life-threatening brain injury in a crash while racing in Glasgow in June 2019.

It was touch and go if Sam would survive, and the remarkable strides he has made in his recovery in less than two years has been a big influence on others going through the same situation and won him admirers globally.

Claire was giving an update on how life is for the family now ahead of her and Sam being keynote speakers at brain injury charity Headway Suffolk’s Neuro Conference on 12 May, which will be live streamed online.

“Sam is frustrated at the moment. On the outside he wants to get back racing and be able to drive, but it’s the hidden things that frustrate,” she said.

“He feels cheated as he was doing very well and he sees what others are doing on social media and he wants to be there. But he’s passionate about getting back to where he was and he’s so motivated and driven to prove that.

“A lot of people are affected by injuries. It’s still raw, you live it every day as it’s always there, but life moves on.”

Sam is currently studying motor mechanics at Cambridge Regional College and plans to move up to level 2 in September. But home studying during Covid hasn’t come easy.

Claire, a special needs teaching assistant and intervener, said: “It was quite a struggle. It was three days online looking at a screen and that was difficult for Sam with his fatigue. Fortunately I was also at home so I was able to help. Now he’s back at college two days a week with one day online and he loves it.”

As part of the practical experience for his studies, Sam has been working on the 250cc grasstrack bike on which he was unbeaten just two weeks before his accident.

Sam already returned to a bike on a GT140 eight months after the accident, and he now plans to race the 250cc bike for the first time on 20 June in a Classic Grasstrack Club meeting near Stansted on the second anniversary of his accident.

“Putting the engine back in has brought back a lot of memories,” said Sam, after the engine was taken out and the bike stored away on his return from hospital. “Seeing all the equipment again like the brand new framekick makes me realise how I lucky I am.”

The guidance and support of his father Chris has been integral in Sam’s mechanical learning at the family home in Linton, near Haverhill. Sam also supports Chris with the restoration of classic fighter jets.

“He always says ‘Dad makes things look easy’,” said Claire. “He’s teaching him all the way through, letting him take ownership and giving him the knowledge.”

While Sam remains focused on being back on the grasstrack bike in the summer, with the ultimate dream of returning to speedway when ready, Claire reveals the frustration at the lengthy process for Sam to be able to drive.

“We started the application to the DVLA in August and disclosed his brain injury. It’s a frustrating wait for Sam, because if he didn’t have the brain injury he would have had it by now.”

Fatigue remains the main difficulty for Sam day to day. “My fatigue is still there but it’s reduced heavily and now comes on at the end of the working around 4, 5 or 6pm,” he said.

Claire added: “Lockdown meant he could stay at home and this helped his fatigue. It’s still there, and if he was to have a grasstrack meeting at the weekend he would have to prepare for it the whole week rather than just the night before.

“What we want to emphasise at the Conference is that sad things happen and it’s fighting for the support you need. Every case is different. Looks can be deceiving. It’s very much a hidden injury but you can still achieve, even if it’s in a different way.”

Sam and Claire will talk about their experience in their first public speaking appearance at the Neuro Conference on 12 May, with Sam finishing with poem written by them both.

Tickets for the online event cost just £20 and can be bought by calling 01473 712225 or email info@headwaysuffolk.org.uk. Full details are on www.headwaysuffolk.org.uk/events.

Also speaking are:

  • Steve Thompson – former England Rugby world champion with 73 caps who has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia possibly due to the effects of playing.


Jill Brown

Headway Suffolk is very sad to receive the news that Jill Brown, a founder member of Headway Ipswich and East Suffolk, has died.

Jill’s daughter Nicky sustained a brain injury in the 1980s. When Nicky had her accident there was no help like Headway in Ipswich. They had to attend Headway in Colchester.

Jill and Ivan started Headway Ipswich and East Suffolk with Ken Plowright, at Backhamlet in Ipswich. They only had six members at that time.

They then went to the Arlington clinic, finally ending up in Pringle ward at Ipswich Hospital.

Jill and Ivan were very active in the beginning setting up meetings and fundraising.


Timberwolf raise over £2.4k for Headway Suffolk

The staff team at Timberwolf, the UK’s leading wood chipper manufacturer, have completed their year of fundraising for brain injury charity Headway Suffolk and raised £2,495.

Keen to support local charities, Timberwolf employees voted Headway Suffolk as their chosen charity for 2020 because they felt that Headway’s commitment to care for and rehabilitate those in need of their services was something they wanted to help with.

Little were Timberwolf, who are based in Stowmarket, to know of the challenges they would meet courtesy of COVID-19, and various fundraising events had to be cancelled as a result.

But undeterred, three sponsored challenges were undertaken over the summer months, which included their HR team each walking at least 84,000 steps a week over two months. Fortunately they were rewarded with some lovely weather!

Having hoped to enter various strength competitions in 2020, Timberwolf’s Product Marketing Manager Antony Alexander utilised his training to raise money by donating £1 for every KG he lifted on the three-standard power-lifting competition lifts – squat, bench press and dead lift.

And over one weekend in July, their Technical Author took on the Peddars Way, an epic walk of 46 miles, managing to complete most of the challenge on the Saturday!

Timberwolf also took part in Headway’s Cycle Ride & Walk event in September. The result of all this is a fantastic amount of money raised and hopefully all must have completed their challenges much healthier!

In addition, a Timberwolf Library was set up at the beginning of the year, raffles were organised in February and December and, together with numerous donations, meant that the final total raised at the end of a difficult year was an amazing £2,495.89.

Chris Perry, Managing Director at Timberwolf, said: “”It has been a privilege to be involved with Headway Suffolk throughout a very difficult year. Their work in the community has been tireless providing care for those in need and that support is now more important than ever.

“Without Covid-19 we could have done so much more. We wish them all the very best for 2021.”

Headway Suffolk is a registered charity that supports local adults living with brain injury, stroke and neurological conditions with rehabilitation, therapy and support services.

David Crane, Communications and Marketing Officer at Headway Suffolk, said: “We are extremely grateful to Timberwolf’s staff for their efforts in raising such a fantastic amount for Headway Suffolk’s services.

“To adapt the challenges they had planned and find new ways of fundraising through a pandemic is a real credit to their team and motivation to support Headway’s services across Suffolk.

“We simply could not survive, especially through a challenging past 12 months without the generosity of companies like Timberwolf, so we truly are thankful for their support.”

IPRS Group raise over £3k for Headway Suffolk

Headway Suffolk is very thankful to the employees of independent healthcare specialists IPRS Group after they raised £3,142 for the brain injury charity through various fundraising challenges.

The UK-wide company, with its HQ based in Little Blakenham, near Ipswich, adopted Headway Suffolk as well as Headway UK as its chosen charities for 2019 and kindly extended it to 2020 when the Covid pandemic struck.

The group provides a diverse range of clinical products and services through its four subsidiaries. IPRS Health, the health and wellbeing division of the group, helps over 50,000 individuals a year recover from musculoskeletal and mental health conditions and disorders.

Among the fundraising challenges taken on by staff included the London Marathon Walk, the Welsh Winter Swim, Hats for Headway, Dress Down days, 2.6 challenge, Great Run Ipswich Half Marathon and Discover Adventure.

Headway Suffolk is a registered charity that supports local adults living with brain injury, stroke and neurological conditions with rehabilitation, therapy and support services.

Ben Beckwith, Wellbeing and Workplace Services Lead and Physiotherapist at IPRS Group, said: “We are incredibly happy to have been able to help a local charity as well as the national arm of Headway in our little way, especially in such trying times.

“We have colleagues with first-hand knowledge of the fantastic work done by Headway Suffolk and we know the charity and its expertise will continue to help those in the area.”

David Crane, Communications and Marketing Officer at Headway Suffolk, said: “We are extremely grateful for IPRS Group staff’s efforts in raising such a brilliant amount for Headway Suffolk’s services.

“To adapt the challenges and continue fundraising throughout the difficult past 12 months is a testament to their motivation and team spirit.

“It’s been a tough year for Headway Suffolk. While we have managed to continue supporting our clients in different ways, Covid has had a big impact on our finances and we simply could not survive without the generosity of companies like IPRS Group, so we truly are thankful.”

England Rugby World Champion headlines Neuro Conference

England Rugby world champion Steve Thompson will be a headline speaker at neurology charity Headway Suffolk’s sixth annual Neuro Conference on Wednesday 12 May.

The 42-year-old, who won the Rugby World Cup with England in 2003, announced in December that he has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative brain condition that is thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

Steve and seven other former players, all aged under 45, are proposing to bring legal action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union in England and the Welsh Rugby Union over what they claim is their failure to protect them from the risks caused by concussion.

Steve, who was capped 73 times by England, cannot remember winning the World Cup and sometime forgets his wife’s name.

Neuro Conference Format/Tickets

The conference will be live streamed online securely and tickets are priced at £20.

Tickets can be booked by visiting our Events Page. You can also book by calling 01473 712225 or emailing helenmfairweather@headwaysuffolk.org.uk.

Further Keynote Speakers

Dawn Astle – campaigner for better safety in football

Dawn Astle is daughter of former England striker and FA Cup winner Jeff Astle and campaigner for better safety in football after Jeff died due to the concussive effects of heading a leather football.

After research found Jeff died due to CTE, Dawn and the family set up the Jeff Astle Foundation to raise awareness of brain injury in sport and to work with governing bodies to deliver independent research into the links between sport, brain injuries and neurodegenerative illnesses.

The links between dementia and football came to prominence recently with Sir Bobby Charlton being the fifth of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team diagnosed with the disease, which includes Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton, who passed away last year.

Dr Michael Grey – Rehabilitation Neuroscientist

Dr Michael Grey is a rehabilitation neuroscientist at the University of East Anglia (UEA), specialising in neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation associated with acquired brain injury, including stroke and mild traumatic brain injury (concussion).

He is Co-Principle Investigator with Prof Tony Belli for the Repetitive Concussion in Sport (RECOS) trial being conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Dr Grey is lead researcher into the UEA’s new project to test former professional footballers for early signs of dementia, which was announced last year.

Sam Norris – speedway rider and brain injury survivor

Sam Norris is a 17-year-old speedway rider from Suffolk who had to relearn to walk and talk again after being struck by a bike at 50mph while racing in a British Youth Championship in Glasgow in 2019, which left him in a coma.

Sam’s recovery has been described as remarkable by medics and his positive attitude and intense fitness regime saw him achieve his ambition of getting back on a bike again just eight months later, despite living with chronic fatigue.

Sam will be joined by mum Claire, a special needs teaching assistant and intervener, who is keen on highlighting the hidden effects of brain injury after struggling to get the right educational support for Sam, as well as how attitudes from others can change and the importance of safety equipment.

Dr Sajid Alam – consultant in stroke medicine

Dr Sajid Alam is a consultant in stroke medicine at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation and a stroke lead at Ipswich Hospital.

He has a particular interest in the management of TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks or ‘mini-strokes’), hyper-acute strokes and the complex investigations often required after a stroke.

His main speciality is medicine for the older person, and his sub-speciality expertise is in stroke medicine, particularly in cryptogenic and young stroke.

Additional Info

The conference is being kindly sponsored by East of England Co-op, Irwin Mitchell, Slater and Gordon, CFG Law and Hodge Jones and Allen.

Headway Suffolk has attracted great interest in its conferences, with Chris Tarrant, Stephen Hawking, Prof Robert Winston and Jane Hawking as previous speakers.

Brainy Dogs vs Headway Clients challenge

Brainy Dogs (with Sophie) take on Headway clients in a virtual race challenge covering the length of Britain!

From 18 January, the two teams will compete to be the first to reach 201 hours of exercise, which equates to 603 miles – the distance between Land’s End to John o’Groats as the crow flies.

This is a fun challenge to help motivate Headway clients during a difficult time.

All clients are encouraged to take part and any form of exercise counts, so it’s inclusive for all.

Clients will pool their exercise collectively, while the Brainy Dogs and Sophie will be on their own.

Keep an eye on our website and social media channels for updates.

Please help to encourage our clients with a little sponsorship if you can: http://virginmoneygiving.com/fund/brainydogsvsheadwayclients.

Lockdown Services for New Year

Following the Government’s announcement that the country moves into lockdown from today, Headway Suffolk can confirm that our Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds hubs remain OPEN with limited capacity.


Happy New Year – services as normal

Headway Suffolk would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

Today we return to our normal opening days and our services remain unaffected at this time with Suffolk in tier 4 restrictions.


Our opening days over festive break

These are the dates when our Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds hubs are open over the Christmas period:

Mon 21 Dec – Ipswich OPEN, Bury closed
Tue 22 Dec – Ipswich OPEN, Bury closed
Wed 23 Dec – Ipswich OPEN, Bury OPEN
Thu 24 Dec – Ipswich OPEN, Bury closed
Fri 25 Dec – Both hubs closed


Join us for a virtual Christmas Carol Service

Headway Suffolk is inviting local businesses and supporters to join them for a virtual Christmas Carol Service on Tuesday 22 December at 11am.

Traditionally, everyone comes together for a carol service at St Augustine’s Church in Ipswich, followed by lunch, but Covid-19 has put paid to that in 2020.

However, while we may not be physically together, that won’t stop us getting into the festive spirit!

So join us as clients, staff, volunteers and supporters all come together online to sing carols and share season’s greetings.