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Survivors Stories

Alice O’Hanlon

aliceMy name is Alice O’Hanlon. I had been married just two years in 1975 when my brother Sean suffered a permanent brain injury in a Road Traffic Collision. Together with my husband Tom, I have been caring for Sean ever since.
Apart from having Sean going one day a week to a day centre I received no practical or emotional support. I was lucky to meet Frank and Aileen Dolaghan who had brought together a group of brain injury survivors and carers to set up the Brain Injury Foundation. Sean, Tom and I all joined the group when it was formed in 2012 and ever since we have been very actively involved in as many activities as we can. I had been in Newry for 20 years and until I joined the Foundation I had never met anyone who was caring for a brain injury survivor. It is wonderful to be able to talk to people who understand what you are going through – everyone had the same story- the low days you have to be prepared for, the loneliness and the isolation. Sean particularly enjoys the annual respite trip and the regular outings to the theatre and the mystery tours. Tom and I enjoy the Friday night sessions and we both do our best to help with fund raising. Life as a carer is very hard.
We are delighted with the new centre which we now have just outside Camlough. It is called Our House because that is what it is and we love being able to call in for a cup of tea and a chat. My biggest desire is that there would be respite care available for younger and middle aged people with brain injury. Carers are getting older and there is nowhere for survivors to go apart from a home for elderly people.

Duana Rooney


My name is Duana Rooney. At the age of 10 I developed a virus in my brain called Encephalitis from which I developed uncontrolled epilepsy.

This had a terrible effect on my adolescent years especially as I progressed to secondary school. It was then I realised my life was taking a completely different route from what I was expecting.

I now found it hard to find friends who understood my condition and subsequent health issues. I now no longer had any friends to turn to, I was now an isolated teenager. It was me my mum & sisters. My Mum and I became one; where I went she went that’s just the way it was.

We then heard of a support group for people just like us, and so we joined the Brain Injury Foundation. We are now part of this new family of fellow Brain Injury survivors and carers. The support we get from everyone involved has given us a completely new outlook on life and when I travelled to Liverpool recently for Deep Brain Stimulation to help minimise my seizures the support and encouragement from Our Brain Injury Foundation was a great comfort and support to us.

The results of the Deep Brain Stimulation are still up in the air for me at the minute, but being part of such a wonderful support group is helping me look forward and hope for a brighter future for ME. At BIF I help in the office as a volunteer and am presently putting together a database of potential donors. I also have responsibility for keeping our attendance records. Because of the nature of my epilepsy I am often unfortunately prevented from attending some events at BIF but my mum and I try to attend as many as we can. We really look forward to our annual respite trip and to the Friday night sessions. I am looking forward to some new art therapy sessions.

Jeanie Wilson


My name is Jeanie Wilson, at the age of 27 in 1992 I was involved in a very serious Road Traffic Accident, in which it took the Emergency services 2 hours to cut me out of the car. The only memory I have after getting into the car that evening is waking up in The Royal Victoria Hospital after waking out of a coma.

I then learned that I had had a 10 hour operation on my brain and a 24 hour one to rebuild my face, I had a steel cage fitted to keep all this in place.

As a result of all this I am now blind in my right eye, I have tunnel vision in my left eye, no sense of smell and controlled epilepsy.

After getting out of hospital and a long recovery I now had to readapt to my new life as a brain Injury Survivor, It was a very daunting time for me, but with the support of my family I was able to begin dealing with it.

Although I live on my own, for a long time I didn’t have the confidence or inclination to socialise. I then heard of a support group called the Brain Injury Foundation for people just like me, and so I took the opportunity to join this group. This has been a lifeline for me and I now have a reason for getting up in the morning. At BIF I attend Open Houses on Friday nights when I am responsible for the tea and coffee. I also take part in all the activities. I attend on a Tuesday also at what is called the Triple T Club where I am learning to cook. Most of all I love the outings which BIF organises. I now volunteer with a few charities in Newry also.

But if it weren’t for the Brain Injury Foundation I would have nothing. BIF is like my family.