In 2011 I suffered my first traumatic brain injury. I fell 20 feet and landed on my head.
A nurse who saw my accident thought I was dead, until she came over to me and realised I was still breathing. Nobody expected me to survive the night and was given just a 10% chance of survival.
When I did, I was told I’d lose the ability to walk, and that I’d be in a wheelchair before I was 20. What’s more, I became susceptible to further brain injuries, and since then I have suffered a further five.
I have communication problems, I am partially deaf which is getting worse, and my memory is getting worse. Once I even forgot how to tie my shoelaces. I have balance and coordination issues too, and it’s not unusual for me to be at the shops or on my way to hospital and hearing parents tell their children to ‘get away from that drunk woman’.
Nonetheless I feel extremely lucky to have beaten the odds – I am 25 and still on my feet. And I’m also lucky to have found parkrun, which I heard about while doing a Couch to 5k programme in the summer of 2015.
“Since the day I was told I would lose the ability to walk, I made a vow to cherish every step I take”
I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to attend parkrun due to my brain injuries, but I was completely wrong. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I was welcomed with open arms like everyone had known me forever. I am treated like family, I’ve run 90 parkruns, and I’m proud to be in the Volunteer 25 Club. Outside of parkrun I now run three times each week, play football and also do gymnastics.
parkrun helps me to feel like an average person, even just for a little while. I haven’t just gained in fitness, I have gained in friends as well. Because of my first brain injury, quite a few of my friends stopped being my friends. It might have been because they didn’t know how to take the ‘new me’, or they wanted me to come out at night and I wasn’t physically or mentally able to, or it just gave them a reason to stop being my friend. Through parkrun I have also learnt many new things and gained in confidence, self-esteem and so much more.
“It’s not unusual for me to hear parents tell their children to get away from that drunk woman”
Since the day when I was told I would lose the ability to walk, I made a vow to cherish every step that I take, and I love parkrun because those cherished steps take so many forms. Whether it’s being part of the pre-event setup (which I’ve done more than 50 times), tail running, or guiding my friend Phil who is visually impaired as the result of a brain injury.
I don’t know when my last step will be, so I am making the most of every one of them.
This Saturday 25 March at Bolton parkrun it will be the sixth anniversary of my first brain injury, and everyone is welcome to come and celebrate with me. It’s a celebration of life; not just my life but everyone’s life, whether a survivor of a brain injury, cancer or any other illness or disease or accident. Everyone is welcome and the more the merrier!
Alison Walters struggled to return to everyday life after her cancer diagnosis and surgery. Then she came across 5k Your Way and parkrun, both of which she credits in helping her to find her feet again. I was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the connective tissue, in 2018….
For every parkrun around the world, there is an opportunity to host an additional special parkrun event one day a year. For our friends all the way over in Canada, their special day is this Friday 1 July for Canada Day. To celebrate and mark the annual occasion, many parkruns hold a Canada Day parkrun…