Brain injury survivor gets back to work at Hackney charity

Tony Palluotto, in the art studio at Headway, Dalston. (Picture: Polly Hancock)

Tony Palluotto, in the art studio at Headway, Dalston. (Picture: Polly Hancock) - Credit: Archant

Most people find the first day of a new job daunting – but for Tony Palluotto, starting work at Headway East London was especially hard.

Tony has 30 years’ experience as a computer analyst with top firms across Europe.

But in 2007 his life changed in one split second when he was run over by a car in north London.

“I don’t remember much about it,” he said. “I was treated a helicopter team at the scene and then taken to the Royal Free Hospital, where I was in an induced coma for three weeks”

Tony still finds it hard to talk about the crash, focusing instead on his recovery, which began with help from Rehab UK and Headway, a charity that supports people affected by brain injuries.

He became a trustee at the north London branch, and as he “relearned” his computer skills, he began training others.

But he was still fighting his own battles, including chronic pain in his arm. Another effect of Tony’s brain injury was in his speech. Though an East Ender through and through, he now speaks with an Italian accent.

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“I used to be a Cockney, after being brought up in Islington” he explained. “I believe it’s called foreign accent syndrome. It’s because of my Italian background.”

By 2013, Tony felt he was ready to return to his career, but was knocked back by a lack of success in his attempts.

“That was hard,” he said. “But I decided to use the things I had learned in my recovery to help the charities who helped me.”

He began volunteering at Headway East London in Kingsland Road, where survivors from across London meet for art classes, exercise sessions and social interaction once or twice a week.

“Some are more challenged than others but we all accept each other’s conditions,” said Tony. “Nothing is so drastic – we’re like a team.”

Then law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp announced it would sponsor a peer support worker position.

Asked how he felt when he got the job – which involves helping survivors and their families – a smile fills Tony’s face. He said: “I was apprehensive on my first day – I hadn’t been back to work for a few years and it’s different from volunteering. I have more responsibility and it’s more challenging but it builds on things I already did there.”

To find out more about Headway, visit