Barbara picks up national charity honour from double Olympic gold medallist

Barbara Hilton with James Cracknell
Barbara Hilton with James Cracknell

An inspirational woman who defied her own brain injury to help fellow sufferers has scooped a national ‘volunteer of the year’ title.

Barbara Hilton, from Benington, received the accolade in an awards ceremony run by brain injury charity Headway, where she runs a local support group.

She collected a certificate and commemorative plate from double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, who is vice-president of Headway, in a ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel on Friday.

Barbara sustained a brain injury nine years ago as a result of being attacked in her own home. She suffered head and neck injuries, but her brain injury initially went unnoticed.

When she tried to return to work after the incident, Barbara knew something wasn’t right. She was unable to remember conversations or passwords to the computer she’d had had for years, and was struggling to interact with others.

A scan several months later finally revealed she’d been suffering from a subdural haematoma – a swelling of blood that compresses and damages the brain around it. Eventually, the swelling ruptured, causing a brain haemorrhage.

Barbara was medically retired from her job, which ironically involved working in a social services day centre for people with brain injuries.

She then contacted Headway Lincolnshire for help in understanding her injury. After a couple of years, Barbara then decided she wanted to help the charity in return.

Speaking before the ceremony, Barbara said: “Headway Lincolnshire is a relatively small branch of the national charity and as the county is so spread out, it’s difficult to provide help to everyone who needs it. So, a couple of years ago I decided the time was right for me to give something back.

“I started a satellite group of the branch, called The Boston Social Group. It’s for everyone in or around Boston affected by brain injury – be that those with brain injury or their family members or carers.

“We meet once a month in the Five Bells to chat and provide each other with mutual support. Brain injury can be very isolating as it is often misunderstood. I wanted to provide people with an opportunity to come together and relax in the company of others who understand.”

Lincoln’s Hilary Liddle took home the campaigner of the year, making it a successful night all round for the county.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: “Barbara and Hilary are two very special ladies – and all of Lincolnshire should be proud of them.

“The commitment and dedication Barbara has shown to Headway is incredible. Not only has she learned to cope with her own brain injury, but she has selflessly given her time to helping others. Her positive attitude and determination to help others is outstanding.”