Cabin of support

PUBLISHED: 11:35 21 February 2007 | UPDATED: 13:51 04 May 2010

CABIN CREW: Evie, Rosie, Geoffrey, Naomi and Charlie Challis with the poster for a new support group.
Photo: HELEN DRAKE

CABIN CREW: Evie, Rosie, Geoffrey, Naomi and Charlie Challis with the poster for a new support group. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

AN Ely woman whose son sustained a brain injury in a road accident has launched a unique support group for people facing similar difficulties. The first meeting of CABIN - the Carers Association of Brain Injured Needs - will be on March 6 at Ely s Para

AN Ely woman whose son sustained a brain injury in a road accident has launched a unique support group for people facing similar difficulties.

The first meeting of CABIN - the Carers' Association of Brain Injured Needs - will be on March 6 at Ely's Paradise Centre.

Organising the new group has been a labour of love for Julie Challis of Alexander Chase, who has cared for eldest son Geoff for the last seven years after he was knocked off his bicycle by a lorry on the A120 when he was 17.

He was treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge because he lost the bottom of his leg in the accident, but there were other, less obvious consequences.

"Geoff was treated for 13 months and by the time we got him home, it was a completely different Geoff we got back," Mrs Challis, 45, said.

Geoff had sustained a brain injury in the accident.

"He's still very likeable but he has a short term memory problem and he needs to be supervised because he can't really make decisions for himself," Mrs Challis said.

Thousands of people across the country - predominantly young men - deal with acquired brain injuries that can be the result of road traffic accidents and falls at home or at work.

The range of symptoms is vast and sufferers can experience anything from difficulties with speech and concentration to complete paralysis.

Mrs Challis said one of the main problems for Geoff, now 24, is that people can misunderstand his condition.

"People with brain injuries don't always show visible signs of their condition," she said, "so people might see Geoff at the pub and think he's being cheeky or rude when he doesn't mean any harm at all."

It was with this in mind that Mrs Challis began to think last year about establishing a group for people affected by brain injury.

"There is no dedicated place for people in Ely where they can talk about things," she said.

Mrs Challis, who has five other children, was spurred on after the death of her husband; Raymond Challis collapsed during the 2005 London Marathon aged 59. He had an undiagnosed heart condition, and Mrs Challis said she was better able to cope with her mourning when she had a project to focus on.

"He was my best friend and I was lost," she said.

"This has given me something else to think about and if one person walks through the doors and it helps them, it will have been worthwhile."

The first meeting will be on March 6 at Ely's Paradise Centre at 6.30pm, and everyone is welcome, including families and carers who have been affected by acquired brain injuries.

There will be a £1 admission charge to cover costs.

"I'm on the lookout for anyone who has an acquired brain injury as well as their families and carers," Mrs Challis said.

A committee of like-minded people has already been formed to steer the new group.

"I want people to be able to get a bit of support and to have a place they can go where they don't have to put on any airs and graces; people can play cards or do whatever they want."

It is hoped that CABIN's two-month trial period will soon lead to a permanent

To raise funds for the project, the committee has organised an evening of entertainment and a raffle with a bar at the Soham Motel on March 10 from 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £5 and are available from the West End pub and from Mrs Challis herself on the number below.

INFO: For more information about CABIN, contact Julie Challis on 01353 669600.

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