In 2012 Paul Spence was left with severe head injuries by an unprovoked attack. Now he helps other victims rebuild their lives . Catherine Scott reports
Paul Spence doesn’t remember the day he was attacked in a cased of mistaken identity.
In fact he doesn’t remember the month before the attack in a Hull bar.
But he has spent the last three years since recovering, although he knows his life has been changed forever.
“A part of me died that day,” says Paul, from Hull.
“I was unlucky that it happened to me but lucky that I survived. The old Paul is gone, but I am now determined to make the most of my life and to help others cope with a brain injury as I have been helped by family and friends during my recovery over the last three years.”
Paul has now started his own eponymous charity, raising money, awareness and supporting people with brain injuries.
“There is a lot of ignorance out there. We don’t do enough for our brains and there is still a huge taboo surrounding the words ‘mental illness’. I want to do something about that.
Paul is also ambassador for personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who have branches in Hull, Leeds and London, giving advice and support to those who have been through a similar experience to him.
Paul was attacked during a night out with friends and his life changed forever.
He suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling backwards and hitting his head on a ceramic floor.
He spent five days in and out of consciousness and repeatedly suffered seizures on a high dependency ward in hospital.
Doctors said he was lucky to be alive, but his fight for survival was one he won, and he is now proving an inspiration to many with his own story of recovery and charity fund-raising efforts.
Despite his own amazing recovery, Paul says he struggled to find the support he needed through much of his three-year battle.
“The first year was very difficult. I could remember who people were but not the emotions that I felt toward them which made it very difficult for others around me. The ripple effects of what happened to me were felt by a lot of people.”
As a result, he established his own charity, Paul – For Brain Recovery, which has the long-term goal of opening a walk-in support centre in Hull for those who are trying to rebuild their lives following brain injuries.
He believes his recovery was aided by his determination to get physically fit.
“There wasn’t much I could do about my brain but I could do something about my physical fitness and so I started to work out and learn about nutrition, and food that was good for my brain. I really think it has helped me. It isn’t for everybody but for me it was the right thing.”
His fitness has also meant that he has managed to complete a lot of fund-raising challenges
Through his ‘ambassador’ role, he will now offer support and advice to those being supported by the firm, using his own experiences to give people a real-life example and mentor when facing the challenges ahead.
“Having been on that incredibly long and difficult journey to recovery myself, I know how I would have valued being able to speak to someone who had been there and walked the path before, understood the struggles and frustrations, and was able to put some positive perspective on the situation for me,” says the 35 year old.
“It’s often not only about the impact on the individual. I know my injury affected my relationship with my loved ones, as they struggled in terms of how they should have been supporting me. They were brilliant and did their best for me, but it was a complete change for us all, and a struggle.
“Once you leave hospital you can find your biggest challenge is only just starting, and that is adapting to your new life and finding it in yourself to accept your old life is gone forever.
“Quite simply, nothing could prepare me or my family for the battle of brain recovery. Hopefully, by being there for the clients of Hudgell Solicitors, I’ll be able to act as a positive role model. I know staying positive is key, and I’ll try and ensure the people I support are always looking ahead with positivity, even though I know that is difficult at times.”
Neil Hudgell says: “Paul is an inspirational character and he wants to share his experiences to help others on the road to recovery,” he said.
“We have long recognised the need for rehabilitation to be at the heart of our work in supporting our clients, but as Paul has been highlighting, this support can be difficult to access when patients leave hospital and return home. It is a massive, life-changing moment for both the individual and their families.
“Paul is doing a tremendous amount of work to raise awareness of this issue, and we have been delighted to support him in his fund-raising efforts.
“We’re all working to the same goal of providing better to support to people who suffer life-changing, serious injuries, so we are a perfect partnership, and we know the support of Paul will be greatly appreciated by the people we represent.”
Three years after his injury, Paul is now fighting fit and a man determined to make a positive difference.
He has also thrown himself into fund-raising as his own fitness has improved, raising £30,000 for the Neurology Ward at Hull Royal Infirmary through various events, including family fun days and marathons.
Earlier this year, he ran four marathons over four consecutive days to complete a lap of the island of Ibiza to mark the national Action for Brain Injury awareness week.
As for the man that attacked him, Paul gives him no thought.
“I need to stay positive, to get angry with him would not be good for me. He’s not worth it. I have moved on.”