‘Wife and soulmate’ of brain injury man shortlisted for UK carer award

Before the brain injury, Gary and Heather had voyaged around the globe on holidays. INCT46-701-CON
Before the brain injury, Gary and Heather had voyaged around the globe on holidays. INCT46-701-CON

The ‘wife and soulmate’ of a Carrick man who suffered a life-changing hypoxic brain injury is in the running for a UK-wide carer award.

Heather Beaumont, 55, is one of only three people from across the country to be shortlisted for the title of Carer of the Year, which is in recognition of her outstanding devotion to supporting her husband Gary, 56, after a brain injury in 2013 left him wheelchair-bound and unable to communicate.

The couple today. INCT 46-702-CON

The couple today. INCT 46-702-CON

Nomination comes just weeks after they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. They had been enjoying a weekend in London in November 2013 when Gary suffered the near-fatal injury in his sleep. He was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment before being flown to Belfast to begin an uphill journey to recovery.

“It was such a lovely surprise to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award,” said Heather. “Brain injury came as a real shock to us. Gary had been a fit and active man with no pre-existing medical conditions or concerns when he was struck down in his prime.

“Even today, I’m not always sure whether Gary just knows me from after his brain injury or actually remembers me from our lives before. This feeling comes and goes and there are times I get upset. But as long as he keeps trying to get better, I will keep trying too.”

Previously, the couple had voyaged around the world on holidays and Heather would often visit the hospital with the many images of their trips to help him recall their life together.

Three years on, she continues to successfully juggle hospital visits with family life and now is working tirelessly to adapt their home with a hope that he will finally be able to move back in time for Christmas.

Heather attended counselling sessions and became an active member of brain injury charity Headway Ballymena. In 2014, Heather and her parents raised more than £1,000 with a charity coffee morning, while her work colleagues at Oakland Insurance held ‘More-than-a-Marathon’, which raised a further £4,000 for Headway Ballymena services.

“Headway Ballymena has been a real support. My parents were worried about me for a long time, and they are so relieved that I now have a community of empathetic people to talk to, support and discuss the challenges of brain injury.

Heather, who was nominated by Frances McGarry, chairperson at Headway Ballymena, will learn if she has landed the accolade, sponsored by SweetTree Home Care Services, in London on December 16.