Tony Peacock fell from a window at a New Year's Eve party in 2016 which left him with a traumatic brain injury.

After his fall Tony received extensive medical treatment and was placed in a coma for four weeks to allow his brain to heal from a haemorrhage in his thalamus. He was left with life changing cognitive and physical difficulties that required further rehabilitation at the Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit (RABIU) in Musgrave. During this time he lost over four stone and battled multiple infections. The following period was very challenging for him to accept his brain injury and to overcome these obstacles with further medical intervention and physiotherapy.

Tony explains that he could never had predicted the impact that accident would have on his life.

“I remember just coming around and I didn't actually know what was wrong with me, my wife and family had initially told me I had just broken my leg. That’s all I thought I was in hospital for at the beginning and I didn’t know I couldn't really speak, I thought I was speaking but all I was saying was noises."

After finally facing the realities Tony was determined to make as full a recovery as possible. At RABIU he underwent daily rehabilitation therapy such as physio, speech and language, occupational therapy and neuro- psychological therapy. Tony speaks very highly of this support and knows that without it things could have been very different for him: "If I didn't have that every day, I'm pretty sure I wouldn’t have made the recovery I have today."

In addition to the severe physical injuries, Tony also suffered serious mental health problems as a direct result of the brain injury. He suffered anxiety, sleeping difficulties, suicidal thoughts, depression and episodes of anger: "I was in a really bad place, suicidal thoughts were a problem, that’s when I had to go and see a counsellor at Headway.’’

When Tony returned home, he engaged in further rehabilitation through the NHSCT Community Brain Injury Team. Tony quickly found that after his brain injury he could not return to his previous job and because of this he began to have issues with his mental health due to the frustrations of lack of daily routine.

 His wife suggested going to the gym which he reluctantly tried and on his return his wife asked him how he felt, Tony explains:

“I actually just broke down and told my wife for the first time since my accident I’m actually happy”.

That’s when Tony realised the impact exercise can have not only on physical health but also mental health. His new passion for all things health and fitness led him to think about becoming a personal trainer.

To support him with this, Tony was referred to Cedar’s Inclusion Works service in November 2017 to start his path to employment

He received support from his Case Officer, Karen, to manage the effects of his brain injury in work. This gave him better insight on how to deal with the issues he faced. He was then supported to find a course to help him pursue his goal of becoming a personal trainer.  He completed a fitness instructor course and a personal trainer course quickly which is testament to his passion for the activities and personal determination. He really valued his weekly support with coursework and exam preparation he received from training officer Sean.

The rehabilitation journey has led to Tony now be working as a self-employed freelance personal trainer and really enjoys his new career. It is not without its day to day challenges, but the rewards outweigh any negatives. He talks about one of the main rewards:

’I am able to help people achieve physical goals along with helping them to overcome their mental barriers. I find it really rewarding not only to see people’s physical transformation but also their new found confidence in themselves.’

Tony’s amazing achievements were made possible through his personal determination and collaboration with multiple agencies that were equipped to support him overcome different barriers all the way to reaching his dream job. His journey highlights how teamwork can result in positive outcomes and we’d like to congratulate Tony on everything he has worked to achieve.

What is Inclusion Works?

Inclusion Works supports adults with disabilities who are keen to build employability skills and experience to be work ready, then moving into a paid job, college course or volunteering on leaving. Specialist physical disability, ASD and brain injury support is available and tailored to each individual and their needs. Following initial assessments, participants will build an action plan, drawn from a menu of choices to address their personal barriers and agree solutions to meet their employability and inclusion goals. Inclusion Works is person-centred, encouraging and supporting individuals to design their own programmes around their needs and aspirations, building confidence and independence.

Cedar’s Inclusion Works project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy. Funding is also provided by the Department for Communities and all five local HSCTs in Northern Ireland.

Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about Cedar’s Inclusion Works programme please visit our dedicated page. You can also keep up to date with Cedar through Facebook and Twitter.