‘Hidden hero’ wins award for campaigning work

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ONE of “life’s hidden heroes” has been recognised for her tirelesss commitment to helping people affected by brain injury.

Lesley Saunders, 68, of Howden, near Goole, was named Volunteer of the Year in the Headway Annual Awards at a ceremony held at London’s Dorchester Hotel.

Mrs Saunders, whose late husband Brian was struck by a car and left with injuries that left him unable to communicate with his family, has campaigned for better services for people with brain injuries for the past decade.

For the past eight years she has run the Hull and East Riding branch of Headway.

Back in July 1997, Mr Saunders was almost home and was crossing the intersection of Treeton Road and Sutton Road in Howden. He waved to a friend just as he stepped into the road – and was struck by the wing mirror of a passing Transit van.

Their daughter Alison happened to be travelling two cars back and was horrified to find her father lying in the road.

Mr Saunders died in 1998 but, motivated by the lack of support for people in his condition, Mrs Saunders started campaigning to improve services. She fund-raised and supported the opening of a dedicated brain injury rehabilitation unit and fought in vain to prevent its closure in 2003.

She was later appointed by NHS managers to serve as a People’s Champion for Brain Injury.

Alongside senior clinicians and managers, she helped develop a new care pathway for patients and the provision of rehabilitation beds. However, these plans were dropped following a NHS underwent re-organisation.

In 2005, after two years of planning, Headway Hull & East Riding was launched, with Lesley the driving force.

She was appointed as the secretary of the branch, a position she still holds today, along with running a telephone support line for local people.

Most recently she organised a special one-day conference for professionals working in the field of brain injury in Hull.

“Lesley is one of life’s hidden heroes,” said Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway.

“For years, she has been working hard to improve the lives of people affected by brain injury, giving up huge amounts of her time to either run support meetings or work with health officials to try to ensure people get the help they need.”