Conor McHugh from Dungannon was born prematurely at 28 weeks weighing just 1lb 11 ounces. He spent his childhood in and out of hospital fighting a number of health conditions. At age 12 he suffered a severe seizure, which resulted in his brain being starved of oxygen and Conor was left with a brain injury, suffering a number of serious aftermaths.
Now aged 27 and a father to a 3 year old son, Conor is supported by local charity, The Cedar Foundation, and is completing a work placement in the Drumcree Community Centre as part of his Youth Work degree in the Open University.
Brain injury rehabilitation
Conor was referred to Cedar in 2012 by the Acquired Brain Injury
Rehabilitation Team to focus on getting back into training or employment.
He worked with his Cedar Case Officer, Sinead McGrath, to set goals to be achieved over a five year period. Cedar linked with Start 360 who recommended a BA Hons degree through the Open University. With help from Sinead to apply for adjustments and financial support, Conor registered on the course.
Starting an Open University degree
Sinead commented: “Conor took a year to develop his strategies. During this time he took part in a number of short-term courses, completed our ‘Personal Effectiveness After Brain Injury’ training and created his CV.
"This training allowed Conor to gain awareness of his own challenges, how to cope and ways to manage his anxiety. In September 2016 he began his degree in Youth Work with the Open University who supported Conor by visiting him at home and allocating him ICT equipment which allowed him to study remotely.”
Being part of a team
Conor also participates in the Southern Trust Brain Injury walking football team who train once month and play matches against similar teams in the other Trusts. Conor explains, “The walking football has taught me patience and given me a sense of being part of a team and a fantastic organisation.”
When asked about how Cedar had helped with his development Conor said “I feel that I have come a long way from the first day I was referred to The Cedar Foundation. When I first joined I was a very frustrated young person with quite a lot of insecurities and can only describe my life as a ‘storm’. In Sinead I found someone who believed in me and could help me overcome the obstacles and barriers in my life.’
"I will always have a debt of gratitude to Cedar, they helped me take my dream and turn it into a reality. I now feel I can achieve anything as a result of the work, time and effort Cedar put into me. I really cannot put into words what Cedar has done for me on a personal and career basis.”
Cedar Foundation "Inclusion Works" programme
The Cedar Foundation "Inclusion Works" programme is a service that supports people with brain injuries and disabilities to gain employment or get back into work or education.
The project is part funded through the Southern Health and Social Care Board, Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.