A Ramsgate man who was living with an undiagnosed brain injury for eight years has been shortlisted for a national award for his voluntary efforts.
Richard Cardy, 67, sustained a mild traumatic brain injury in 2007. He was working as a postman, a job he had enjoyed for 30 years, when a garden gate fell on him, causing him to hit his head on the concrete floor. It wasn’t until eight years later, however, that doctors discovered the damage to Richard’s brain.
Now he is being recognised for his voluntary work at a local charity as one of just three people from across the UK in the running for Volunteer of the Year. The accolade, sponsored by Anthony Gold Solicitors, will be presented at a prestigious awards luncheon on 9 December organised by Headway – the brain injury association.
On finding out he had been nominated, Richard said: “I couldn’t believe it. To even be considered for the award is incredible, let alone to have made the final three. I’m only doing what hundreds of other volunteers across the Headway network do.”
From employment loss to volunteer work
During the accident in 2007, Richard damaged the nerves in his foot and began experiencing extreme pain and tenderness, making it difficult to walk. Due to this, his employers discharged him on the grounds he was no longer fit to work.
Richard said: “I felt as though I had been discarded. I remember thinking, ‘What on earth am I going to do now?’”
By a twist of fate, Richard bumped into an old friend while on the hunt for a new job who suggested volunteering for Headway Kent, a local charity working to improve life after brain injury. He has since been a dedicated volunteer for almost 10 years.
He said: “I had never heard of Headway at the time. I remember talking to the members and brain injury survivors thinking, ‘Wow, nothing like this has ever happened to me.’”
Discovering brain injury
Little did Richard know that he, too, was living with a brain injury. Still struggling with the nerve damage to his foot, Richard underwent many assessments to try to get to the bottom of the problem. It was during one of these assessments that a scan showed a clouded area on his brain, an indicator of damage.
“I was in utter amazement and astonishment,” Richard said. “To find out after eight years that I had a brain injury was a very surreal feeling. Most of all, I felt grateful. Grateful that things weren’t worse. I spend my days surrounded by people whose lives have been completely devastated by brain injury, so I know my outcome could’ve been very different. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Due to the brain injury, Richard now struggles with his balance and coordination, which he had previously put down to the injury to his foot.
He said: “The people at Headway Kent have helped to open my eyes to the world of brain injury. It has helped develop me as a person and given me a real passion and purpose in life.”
Since his involvement with the charity in 2013, Richard has been instrumental in supporting the activities on offer at the Thanet day centre and offering a listening and understanding ear for its members.
During lockdown, his dedication remained steadfast as he supported the launch of virtual sessions and offered welfare calls to help people feel less isolated and alone.
He said: “Volunteering helps get me out of the house and gives me an opportunity to meet new people. To be honest, the members help me just as much as I help them.”
Richard was nominated for Volunteer of the Year by Makiko Downton, Facilitator and Volunteer and Headway Kent, who said: “Richard never asks for anything in return for his kindness and support. He has had many ups and downs in his life, but he is always thinking positively. Anyone who meets Richard knows what a genuine and humble person he is.
“We all greatly appreciate his contribution of time and effort. We believe he deserves recognition for his loyalty and great service to Headway for the past 10 years, and this award would mean so much to him.”