‘Remarkable’ Eastbourne woman who cares for childhood sweetheart in running for national brain injury award
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Sally Hylands, 68, lives in Eastbourne with Clifford, her teenage sweetheart, whom she married in 1979. She is now one of just three national finalists up for Headway’s Carer of the Year Award sponsored by Hugh James Solicitors.
Her nomination recognises her unwavering dedication to Clifford in the aftermath of him sustaining a life-changing brain injury which, as Sally said, “Saw their lives change overnight”.
The accolade will be presented by Headway – the brain injury association, at its glittering awards ceremony on December 8 at the Landmark London hotel.
In June 2002, Sally and Clifford returned home from a gathering where people had noticed that Clifford wasn’t his usual self – the life and soul of the party.
Clifford initially thought he had a bad attack of indigestion until, at 3am, he collapsed with a heart attack in front of Sally.
She immediately called an ambulance and, although they responded very quickly, it took 20 minutes before Clifford began to breathe again, resulting in anoxic brain damage. Sally still remembers the terrifying words the paramedics repeated: “No output.” Clifford was just 46 years old.
He was admitted to intensive care and remained in a coma for four weeks. The prognosis was bleak. Sally said: “I sat at his bedside begging him to pull through, vowing I would take anything back as long as he didn’t die.”
After four immensely challenging weeks, Sally’s sister-in-law found a leaflet for their local brain injury charity Headway Sussex - known as HSX - and life changed once again.
They made contact and, with Headway’s help, Sally and Clifford met Mike Hope. He was the ABI (acquired brain injury) Coordinator for East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, and he offered immediate support.
Mike said: ‘My enduring memory of Sally in the very early days was of this tiny but very determined woman standing up to doctors who wanted her to sign a ‘do not resuscitate’ document regarding Clifford. They were convinced he would not survive, or if he did, would remain in a permanent vegetative state. Sally was having none of it. And Clifford survived.”
Speaking about her Headway award nomination, Sally said: “I feel very humbled and very honoured to be nominated, but I think it’s not about me; it’s about all these people who have suddenly been thrust into this role of carer, where the family dynamics have changed, overnight in our case.
Life as a carer can be challenging and tiring, so it’s wonderful for that to be recognised. It’s a bit of a morale boost.”
Mike Hope added: “I can think of no one more deserving of the Carer of the Year award than Sally. She has gone from someone who knew nothing about acquired brain injury (ABI) but cared, to someone who publicly challenged her MP about what needs to be done for people living with ABI.
“She’s now being a leader and a mentor for others. God bless Sally Hylands - she is an inspiration to us all.”