BRAIN injury victim Paul Belk’s parents are banging the drum for him ahead of a national awards ceremony.
The determined 28-year-old, from Harton, South Shields, has been shortlisted as a potential Campaigner of the Year at the Headway Annual Awards.
He was nominated by Claire Tritton, from the Gateshead and South Tyneside branch of the brain injury charity, for using his experience to help others.
Paul was given just a two per cent chance of survival when he fell into a coma after his drink was spiked during a backpacking trip to Thailand in 2005.
He spent three months in intensive care and when he woke, he was paralysed and unable to speak.
With specialist help from staff at Chase Park Rehabilitation centre in Whickham, Gateshead, he slowly regained some movement in his limbs and the ability to talk.
Over the years, he has regained enough movement to live independently and start a part-time business administration apprenticeship with the NHS in North Tyneside.
He continues to receive physiotherapy and occupational therapy and his ultimate aim is to walk independently again.
As part of his therapy, he helped establish the Chase Park Festival, an accessible music festival headlined this year by The Futureheads.
Paul, a keen drummer, also took to the stage himself, with a group of his support workers.
Claire, a community development officer for Headway Gateshead and South Tyneside, said: “Paul is living proof that there can be life after brain injury.
“It’s hard to overestimate how much energy and determination is required to make such a good recovery.
“But somehow, Paul has managed to use his own experience to raise awareness of brain injury, highlight in the local and national press the value of specialist neurological rehabilitation, and help organise fully-accessible music festivals.”
Paul is down to the final three in his category and will attend an awards luncheon at The Dorchester in London on Friday.
His parents, David and Carol, will travel with him and his father will accompany him to the event.
Mr Belk, 57, said: “We are all looking forward to it.
“The whole family is delighted that he’s made it to the final three.”
Headway works with people across the UK to improve life after brain injury and its annual awards recognise survivors, carers, volunteers and campaigners.
Paul said: “Too few people know about brain injury and yet more and more people seem to be sustaining them.
“By sharing my story, I hope to make more people aware of the effects that brain injury can have, but also give some hope to those affected.”