It took a simple fall in the bathroom to completely change Frances Wright’s life - the Bexhill woman suffered brain damage so profound she wondered if she could come out the other side.
Now she credits Avanti in Filsham Road, St Leonards, run by Dr Ella Squires, for turning it round and helping her move on.
“Without Avanti, I would be at home not realising that I still have potential,” Frances said. “When you have had a brain injury there is so much you can’t do that you focus on that, instead of focussing on what you can do.”
Frances, who is 59 and lives in Albert Road, was referred following her accident in October 2012 and at Avanti discovered the environment where she is learning new skills and finding her way forward.
“It is such a calm homely place that you always feel comfortable coming here. It has been a godsend. The staff are really wonderful, and I think Ella saved my life, if the truth be told. I was in a very bad depression, I was not happy, and now I feel much more positive. I am learning to cope now with my illness, with my head injury, and I feel very lucky to be here. Avanti has saved my life. My quality of life has improved because of what they have done.”
The centre is open from 9.30-4pm Monday to Friday and offers help to anybody with acquired brain injury - whether from an accident like Frances, or causes such as assault, stroke, haemmorage, heart attack, or drowning. It provides services including physio and occupational therapy, speech and language and cognitive behaviour work, all of which take place in a warm atmosphere rather than a clinical one.
Clients are referred by the PCT or social services and spend their time at Avanti engaged in a variety of activities such as discussion sessions, playing instruments, creating art, as well as receiving individual and specific attention.
It was started in 2003 by Ella whose aim was to provide a local service for people so they then would not have to travel so far to find help.
Ella said: “We don’t discriminate - we have lots of different people here, some people with mental health problems, some with drug and alcohol problems.
“We cover any need that a person has, any interest, we don’t just work with people’s brain injury, we work with people holistically. You can work with people, get them out functioning, especially get them to appointments, and we get involved to a certain degree with families - we are here for the family as well.”
She is pleased by the work being done at Avanti and said: “This was my dream - my vision - and we are fulfilling that dream. I am passionate about it, I do love my clients, and I love working in this field. Where we find it rewarding is most services have a time limit, but we see people from the beginning, and watch them progress all the way through. We are fortunate enough to have the luxury of working with people as long as they need it. I do not believe in that process of getting them as good as you can and then moving them on - that would not be enough for me. We have a different way because we can continue giving people that care. The only time I move people on is when they are not making any more progress, if they are not benefiting from our services.
“For some reason we had this vision and manage to make it happen. It is what we wanted. I think if you set out to achieve something and work hard on it, you will do it, and that applies to people with brain injuries as well. The clients we have are so amazing. They inspire you. I don’t feel sorry for them...and being in a position where you are allowed to help or assist someone to help themselves, that is a real privilege.”
Avanti is at 28 Filsham road, call 01424 433733 or email email@example.com.