Hackney supper club chef beats brain injury

Keith Emmanuel

Keith Emmanuel - Credit: Archant

A man was shortlisted for a national award for the inspiring way he rebuilt his life after a shattering brain injury left him having to relearn the most basic skills - including walking, talking and eating.

Keith Emmanuel, 52, of Milton Grove, Park was just one of three people in the UK in the running for the Achiever of the Year award, hosted by brain injury association, Headway, and invited to a special ceremony last Friday.

He had been driving through London in 1994 when he was forced to stop on the side of the road due to an extreme headache.

A nearby police officer noticed something was seriously wrong and Mr Emmanuel was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a serious brain haemorrhage.

His injury left him in a coma, which he eventually battled out of, despite having to stay in hospital for nine months.

In 2007 Mr Emmanuel sought support from Headway’s Hackney branch, in Kingsland Road, and is now a key volunteer at the charity.

From not being able to hold a fork, Mr Emmanuel now cooks and serves dishes for Headway members and visitors as part of the kitchen project – running a lunch club five days a week and supper clubs on Fridays.

Most Read

Mr Emmanuel said: “It was a very difficult time for my family, particularly as my brain injury caused me to be partially paralysed for a long time after the incident; but they stuck by me throughout everything, especially my mum. When I managed to say ‘Hello Mum’ for the first time, it brought such a big smile to her face.

“I’m still quite numb down my right side, and I still suffer with short and long-term memory problems, but my first ever job was in a kitchen and I feel at home when I’m preparing food and clearing away the dishes – everything has its place.”

He said: “I feel quite honoured to represent Headway, because I support them and what they stand for. I think it’s really good what they are doing for people with memory problems and important that they get recognised, because they aren’t nationally.”

Mr Emmanuel has also helped raise £3,500 for the charity and spends his spare time as a gardening volunteer at Homerton Hospital.

The Hackney branch of Headway is self-funded and relies on donations and to operate.

For more information on the many projects and programmes offered to brain injury survivors, visit: headwayeastlondon.org.