13th Dec, 2019

Diver fighting to rebuild life after horrific Caribbean attack

Catherine Thompson 5th Nov, 2019 Updated: 5th Nov, 2019

CRIPPLING trauma after a violent attack has left a former professional diver trying to rebuild his life.

Harry Hayward was the victim of an unprovoked attack on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where he was working four years ago, which left him with a brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The 46-year-old from Stratford had finished work and was on his way home when a local smashed a rock into his head in what Harry described as a racist attack.

The former Kenilworth resident nearly died but his life was saved by a surgeon who was nearby at the time of the attack.

He said: “I was very aware of the fact that I was being told I was going to be dead in 20 minutes if they did not find the neurosurgeon on the island. My right arm had already stopped working but I was not aware of any significant pain at this time or the fact that my brain was being crushed by my own blood.

“My life was saved thanks to a wonderful surgeon and very good timing and luck that he was in residence, although I had been left with a large hole in my skull and a permanent fracture all around the skull leading to a very difficult and lonely recovery.

“I have dealt with dead divers, shark attacks and suicide bombers but the PTSD I have suffered since this vicious attack has been worse than anything.”

The one time diver and yachtsman now works as a part-time cleaner and uses running as a way of coping with his PTSD for which he cannot get treatment because of long waiting lists.

He explained: “Traumatic brain injuries can vary greatly. One person can have very obvious deficits, another’s can be very subtle. That is why they call it the invisible injury. Many people will look at someone post traumatic brain injury and think that they are completely normal as they look and act normally, having no clue whatsoever as to the level of anguish, fear, pure terror and a feeling of separation that they go through, let alone the very subtle differences there are to self-identity.”

It has left Harry struggling financially.

A crowdfunder has been launched to help him. He is still paying for the treatment he received in Antigua, as well as trying to cope with everyday life, and he still wants to return to diving some day.

He added: “In all honesty I feel rather uncomfortable with this approach to raising funds to move forward. The reality however is that with what I earn I am never going to do that and will continue waiting for psychological treatments that will never ever happen due to such massive waiting lists in the UK.

“I struggle with the bills and often have to choose between heating or food but I want more than anything to contribute to society again, to be useful, to raise a family and find happiness.

“Confidence and feeling worthy again are other great obstacles that need to be overcome and this is in my case done by getting up every day and trying to make it better than the last.”

Visit www.gofundme.com/f/re-building-my-career-after-a-tbi to help Harry.

 

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