Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Gial-force boost for Brain charity

BY John McGurk

A Co Antrim mum devoted to helping local folk with head injuries has topped the latest heat of the Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland awards.

Ballymena woman Gail Workman becomes the fifth person to secure a place in the semi-finals of our competition to find someone who epitomises the good-hearted work, bravery and inspiration of men, women and children in our province.

Gail has been the chairwoman of the brain injuries charity Headway in Ballymena for the last eight years.

And the mum-of-four is also the organisation’s Northern Ireland |regional representative at UK-wide meetings

It was after her son Steven suffered two brain haemorrhages that Gail got actively involved with Headway.

Explained Gail: “When my middle son Steven was 14, he had a brain haemorrhage. He collapsed at home, without warning, one evening. A brain scan was done and they found an aneurysm that had bled.

“There were a number of complications because a clot developed and his brain became swollen.

“The whole family was sent for, to say their goodbyes. But there was a turnaround because he survived.

“From our point-of-view, the key in all of this was our faith, because we do very much believe God had a hand in keeping Steven alive.”

But just four years later, Steven developed another brain aneurysm.

Although he also survived this, Gail admitted: “We got a very different young man home with us, compared to the one who went into hospital”.

But Headway’s rehabilitation programme for brain-injury sufferers and its support network for families brought a happy ending for Steven and his family.

Steven now lives independently and an indebted Gail is even more actively involved with Headway.

We broke the news of her Spirit of Northern Ireland heat-winning success as she was in London attending one of the charity’s quarterly meetings.

“It’s very good,” said a delighted Gail. “That’s great. Obviously I will be telling them about this, as it is good for Headway, too.”

As the latest Spirit of Northern Ireland heat-winner, Gail is due to feature on the UTV Life show this week — as will all of our semi-finalists.

Due to the overwhelming number of Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland entries already received, the closing date for remaining entries will be next Friday — November 21.

If you know someone you feel deserves to be recognised, fill out the form in today’s Sunday Life. All entries must be with us by Friday.

A Sunday Life panel will choose the 40 nominees whose stories will feature in the paper.

Due to the huge volume of entries, only the stories of 40 nominees can be published.

Each week we will feature four unsung heroes with readers voting for the person who best represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland in 2008.

The phone lines are open for you to vote for your favourite nominee until midnight on Tuesday.

Every Sunday, we will reveal who topped the phone poll and then open the lines again for the next four nominees.

The top 10 nominees featured over these weeks then go forward to a semi-final, along with the 10 most popular as voted for by Sunday Life readers.

Out of these top 20 nominees, the public will be asked to vote for their final top 10.

The Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards’ top 10 will appear at a fantastic final hosted by UTV’s Julian Summons and a mystery guest soap star at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast on January 20.

A panel of judges will then choose the Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Award winner, who will receive a fantastic Peugeot 107 car as their prize.

The person who nominated the winner will win a pair of Flybe flight tickets.

Belfast Telegraph

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