Headway Limerick Thanks Community for Helping to Open New Centre Q&A with Elisa O’Donovan

Headway Limerick

Pictured: Staff and Clients at Headway Limerick during Music Therapy Class. Photo: Katie Glavin/ilovelimerick. 

Headway Limerick Thanks Community for Helping to Open New Centre

by ilovelimerick correspondent Katie Glavin

Headway is an acquired brain injury organisation who aim to bring positive change into the lives of people affected by an acquired brain injury. Headway Limerick was previously located on Steamboat Quay. Due to being allocated a grant through the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, Headway has received the vital funds needed for a new, fully accessible centre located in the old AIB located on upper William street. Headway Limerick’s new centre, which was opened last month, is much more suitable to the needs of the service and Headway are much better able to deal with the increased demand for the service.

We met with Elisa O’Donovan for to ask her a few questions about Headway Limerick, the service it provides to the people of Limerick, and what this new centre will mean for Headway and the Limerick community.


What is it exactly that Headway does, what service does Headway provide?

“Headway is an acquired brain injury organisation so our ethos and our motto is that we bring positive change into the lives of people with an acquired brain injury. Basically, an acquired brain injury can happen to anyone at any time through a stroke, through a fall, through a road traffic accident, through meningitis, through an infection. There is such a wide variety of causes of an acquired brain injury. I guess then that results in a lot of various consequences. People might have physical difficulties after their brain injury, people might have communication and speech challenges. For a lot of our clients, they would make a good physical recovery after their injury but what is affected is in how they think or how they feel emotions. Often brain injury is like an invisible disability because the person often looks fine but actually they have changes in their memory or in processing information and things like that. Obviously, any injury to the brain is a very difficult thing to live with so with services like Headway tries to inform our clients on how to deal with life after brain injury. We would support our clients in managing all the various consequences of brain injury. I think what we do here as well is facilitate a space in the heart of the city where people with brain injuries can meet other people who have gone through something similar and that is just critical! If you’ve gone through something like a brain injury you often feel completely alone, and you’re not! This is something that affects a significant amount of people in Ireland. When you come into headway you’re meeting other people who have experienced similar things and that’s great to get that support and know that you’re not alone”


Headway Limerick

Staff at Headway pictured outside the new building located at the old AIB premises on Upper William Street. Photo: Katie Glavin/ilovelimerick

With the change in Headway Limerick’s location, what sort of impact has this made?

“It has made a huge impact! Where we were down in steamboat quay was the old schooners bar and it really hasn’t changed since the schooners bar to the rehabilitation service that we had. When we started off in headway in limerick in about 2002 we only had maybe 15 to 20 people using our services at any time. Then in about 2017, we have about 70 or 80 people using Headway at any one time. That space in steamboat quay was just not equipped to deal with the amount of people we have coming into us and it also just wasn’t fit for purpose. The kitchen we have now is at wheelchair level and is properly accessible whereas steamboat quay wasn’t and we’re all about making our clients as independent as possible. The people who use Headway, this is their centre and their service so they need to be able to use it. Even the toilets in Steamboat Quay just weren’t accessible and weren’t suitable. This space now is fully accessible and it’s wonderful because everyone can enjoy it and everyone can use it. We were very very fortunate to receive funding from JP McManus. Without that money, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”


How did Headway Limerick go about receiving the funds to create this new space?

“Well JP McManus is very involved in a lot of charity work. We put in an application several years ago. We just outlined the need for it, which there was a huge need for it and when this need is outlined how it will have an impact, then changes can be made. We haven’t been in this new space very long and already there is just such a difference. The clients love it and it’s so close to the bus station. Most of our clients use the bus, they’re able to come in and it’s so close. There’s so much more space too. There are three floors in the new Headway building and there was only one level down in Steamboat Quay. There are loads of individual rooms for privacy and where people can do individual work and then we have a lot of larger spaces as well for groups. We also decided to name the rooms after the bridges in Limerick so we have the Shannon room, the Perry room, the Thomond room, which is lovely and they’re more memorable then too. The Shannon room which is one of the bigger rooms, we want it to be used by the community so we already have a group from St. Camillus coming in to use it on Thursday evening for a carers group, which is brilliant! This is what it should be used for, getting everyone involved and this is the way health services should be. Everyone should be using the services. It’s here and why should it just be for us? We want to help other groups and organisations as well.”


As well as physical rehabilitation in clients, how else is Headway Limerick affecting their lives?

“Recovering from brain injury is a lifelong journey and Headway is just a part of that journey. Many of our clients might have been working, with families and things like that. As a result of that brain injury, they might not be able to go back to work. We also might have clients who were big into soccer or rugby and now because they might be wheelchair users it’s difficult for them as they can’t play anymore. We are about exploring other options. If something like this happens to someone, there are other options. Headway wants to get these people thinking about their options. Their life may have changed but it is good to explore other things they might like to do. For example, this morning downstairs the clients were doing glass mosaics.  A lot of people there might realise they really like doing artsy things and being creative. We also have computers so a lot of people may have never have learned how to use a computer before and now is a great opportunity to do that. We have people here too who might have been able to use a computer before but because of their brain injury, they might have to relearn basic skills again. Our brain really does everything for us and we learn all these skills as a child and growing up and because of this injury, you might have to learn these skills all over again. With things like cooking, if you have balance difficulties making a cup of tea can be a difficult thing to do and you have to relearn a safer way to make a cup of tea. Headway wants to make people independent again.”

“There’s also a huge social element. A lot of people who come into Headway say that before Headway they would have just been sitting at home staring at the four walls. That is so isolating for someone especially someone who has gone through a brain injury. Headway is a place you can meet other people with similar experiences. It’s not just about the social element, they’re not just here for the craic all the time, even though that does happen. There’s a therapeutic basis to Headway too. We do gym work, relearning skills, cognitive rehabilitation and things like that too.”


How did you, personally, get involved with Headway Limerick?

“I started off working with headway in Dublin but I am actually from Limerick, my family moved when I was 15.  I was working for headway up in Dublin for about 3 years and they asked me if I would like to come back to Limerick. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to move back here three years ago and it’s the best move I ever made because there’s something about Limerick people. Working with an organisation like Headway, we use the community all the time. Our clients are actually up in boat building right now in the LEDP. We are always using community services and using different things in the community and Limerick is great for that. We provide support throughout the Midwest so we have people coming here from Clare and North Tipperary and the atmosphere here is just great. You just can’t beat Limerick people. I moved down from Dublin three years ago and I definitely have no regrets. Being in Limerick and working with Limerick people is just fantastic.”

 After speaking with Elisa, it was clear that Headway Limerick really wanted to place emphasis on the support they have received from Limerick people and Limerick businesses. Headway has moved from a tiny building to a three floor, state of the art building and the reason this has happened is because Limerick people have become aware of Headway and have promoted and fundraised for headway. On behalf of all the staff and clients in Headway, they would like to thank the people of Limerick for their continued support.


To find out more about headway, you can click here

For more on the JP McManus Benevolent Fund click here

To get involved with Headway contact Elisa O’Donovan at 061 469306

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