My name is Elise. I am now 25 years old and I volunteer at The Phab Shop in Rayleigh twice a week.
When I was 12 years old, having a very normal life, i.e. always outdoors, out and about, horse riding, swimming, going for walks etc., my life suddenly changed forever.
It was the 17th July 2004, I had been for my first trip to the cinema without my mum, she dropped me off there. I met a friend and we had a great time together. I arrived home around 5.30pm, mum was preparing tea for her dads 75th birthday. Having gone upstairs to my room I suddenly experienced a severe sharp pain I my head, I ran down the stairs, told mum and she naturally assumed it was a headache.
However within minutes it became very obvious it was something far more serious.
I was unable to walk and was in and out of consciousness. Mum called an ambulance and I was taken to Southend hospital. Within hours I was on full life support and had been put into an induced coma. Mum was told to expect the worse as I had had a massive stroke and was not expected to survive the night.
However, having been resuscitated on two occasions I did survive the night and the following day was taken, still in a coma, to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Once there, they ran many tests and did various scans but still there was no good news.
My mum and dad were told I would be severely disabled and if I did survive, I wouldn’t ever be the young girl I was.
I then underwent an operation to remove one third of my skull to relieve the pressure on my brain. Without this operation I had maybe 40 minutes to live so it was of paramount importance.
There were many decisions along the way that my mum had to make, none of which had a happy outcome.
The days and weeks passed, still in a coma, still on life support, there were still no signs of life.
Having tried numerous times to get me off life support, without success, I was then classed as brain dead. Doctors felt now was the time to turn off the life support, there was nothing more they could do for me.
After five weeks of being told I would not be able to see, hear, walk, talk or even swallow or breathe my mum resigned herself to the fact that she had lost me. She was devastated as were all my family and friends.
However to cut a long story short, I did wake up! And yes I couldn’t do a thing, the doctors were right.
The long road to recovery had begun. It was very hard work and still is and in the early days it was very painful even to sit up let alone do anything else. I do still have disabilities, but I do have a very good quality of life. My life has been very full and very hard work.
The one thing I really wanted was a little job. Trying to find someone to give me that chance and opportunity was not going to be easy. My disabilities are still such that I do need a lot of help and I am not really able to do very much unaided or alone.
However through a friend I heard about Phab. I went along to meet them and to my amazement they took me on for two mornings a week.
Having this little voluntary job means such a lot to me, it gives me a feeling of self-worth and the fact we are helping a charity makes me feel like I am putting something back into the community.
People were kind and generous when I was ill, the local papers, ITV and even the BBC ran stories and raised money for me to enable me to have extension built on my home. Having spent a year in hospital this meant a great deal to me.
My job has improved my confidence and my social skills. I have made friends with other staff and enjoy meeting the customers. It has also given me an insight into what is involved in running a shop.
I can only say a huge thank you to the Phab Shop for giving me the opportunity to do a few hours work each week and for their very kind support and care they provide for me, which means such a lot, as I strive each day to improve my life in the hope one day I will be more independent and be able to repay some of the kindness so many people have shown me.