Keith is up for ‘Achiever’ award by Headway East London charity after 20-year battle with brain injury

Keith serves up at Headway's kitchen in Shoreditch [photos: Helena Smith]

Keith serves up at Headway's kitchen in Shoreditch [photos: Helena Smith] - Credit: Headway East London

Keith Emmanuel has had to rebuilt his life after a devastating brain injury that has taken him 20 years—but now has been shortlisted for a national award.

Keith serves up at Headway's kitchen in Shoreditch [photos: Helena Smith]

Keith serves up at Headway's kitchen in Shoreditch [photos: Helena Smith] - Credit: Headway East London

He is one of only three people from all over Britain in the running for ‘Achiever of the Year’ title given by the Headway brain injury charity.

The 52-year-old was forced to relearn the most basic life skills after a haemorrhage when he was 32 left him with his life-changing injury.

Keith later joined the charity that helped him, Headway East London, working in the kitchens of its therapy centre in Shoreditch.

He was at the wheel of his car when in 1994 he suffered a terrible headache—so bad that he was forced to pull onto a roundabout to avoid crashing.


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A police officer spotted him and realised something was seriously wrong.

Keith was rushed to the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel, where he remained for nine months.

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“All I can remember was feeling a massive headache coming on,” Keith recalls. “I pulled over and next thing I knew a policeman was by my car window telling me I can’t park on a roundabout!

“Everything after that is a blur.”

His headache turned out to be a serious brain haemorrhage that left him in a coma.

Keith had to move back into his childhood home with his mother, who helped him from scratch with the basic tasks he once took for granted, like washing and eating.

He had to give up his job as an engineer, but soon rekindled his passion for cooking.

“It was a difficult time for my family,” Keith added. “I was partially paralysed for a long time—but they stuck by me, especially mum.

“Eventually I managed to say ‘Hello, Mum’ for the first time, which brought a big smile to her face.”

It wasn’t until 2007 that he finally sought help and joined Headway East London’s kitchen project in Kingsland Road. He has since helped bring in £3,500 for the charity by fundraising.

Keith was nominated for the award by his project co-ordinator Kate de Syllas, who said: “He has given others the confidence to show the skills they’ve learned or relearned since their brain injury.

“He is constantly looking out for others—even though he often forgets things and sometimes needs help with his own sequencing.”

Keith finds out if he is ‘Achiever of the Year’ at the Headway awards on December 5 for brain injury survivors and those caring for them who have made exceptional efforts to rebuild their lives.

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