Heather’s devotion wins top carer award

Heather Beaumont receives her Carer of the Year from double Olympic gold medallist and Headway UK Vice President James Cracknell and Erika Turner, award sponsor. INCT 51-654-CON
Heather Beaumont receives her Carer of the Year from double Olympic gold medallist and Headway UK Vice President James Cracknell and Erika Turner, award sponsor. INCT 51-654-CON

The wife of a Carrick man who suffered a life-changing hypoxic brain injury in his sleep has scooped a national carer award.

Heather Beaumont, 55, was one of three people from across the United Kingdom to be shortlisted for the title of Carer of the Year.

The nomination recognised Heather’s outstanding devotion to supporting her husband Gary, 56, after a brain injury in 2013 left him wheelchair-bound and unable to communicate.

The winner was announced by double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell at an awards ceremony organised by Headway, the brain injury association in London, on Friday.

Heather said: “It was such a lovely surprise to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award,”

“Brain injury came as a real shock to us. Gary had been a fit and active man with no pre-existing medical conditions or concerns when he was struck down in his prime.

“Even today, I’m not always sure whether Gary just knows me from after his brain injury or actually remembers me from our lives before. This feeling comes and goes and there are times I get upset. But as long as he keeps trying to get better, I will keep trying too.”

The couple, who met at a gym almost three decades ago, had been enjoying a weekend in London in November 2013 when Gary suffered a near-fatal hypoxic brain injury in his sleep, leaving him with a life-changing brain injury.

Gary was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment before being flown to Belfast to begin an uphill journey to recovery back home in Northern Ireland.

For almost a year, it was touch and go whether Gary would survive and doctors warned that, if Gary pulled through, it was likely he would be left with long-term cognitive impairment.

“It was such a lovely surprise to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award,” said Heather.

“Brain injury came as a real shock to us. Gary had been a fit and active man with no pre-existing medical conditions or concerns when he was struck down in his prime.

“Even today, I’m not always sure whether Gary just knows me from after his brain injury or actually remembers me from our lives before. This feeling comes and goes and there are times I get upset. But as long as he keeps trying to get better, I will keep trying too.

ten making a round trip exceeding 40 miles to be with her loved one.

At times, Heather was unaware if her husband recognised who she was or indeed had any recall of the life they once lived.

Before brain injury, Gary worked as a Systems and Methods Engineer in Belfast. Keen travellers, the couple had voyaged around the world on various holidays, with Gary always ready to snap shots of their many adventures.

With her husband now struggling to move and communicate after brain injury, Heather would often visit the hospital armed with the many photos and videos of their holidays to help him recall their life together.