Founder of Pendle Powerfest’s battle with life-threatening brain condition
A Barrowford man wants to raise awareness about the brain condition which almost claimed his life when the annual Pendle Powerfest returns on the last Sunday in May.
College lecturer Graham Midgley, thought he was suffering from a kidney infection when he took himself to hospital.
Instead, it would turn out to be the beginning of a journey that would “change my life forever.”
He said: “I was taken up to a ward specialising in Diabetes and given a bed. A couple of hours later, I was unable to walk, talk properly and falling over when trying to use the toilet – I was a mess.”
It would take weeks and countless tests before doctors were able to confirm that the father-of-three had been affected by encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
But before then, Graham lost weight, his vision changed so that through one eye everything was tilted 90 degrees and he needed oxygen as doctors began to fear for his life.
Graham, who lives on Edge End Avenue, Brierfield, said: “My immediate family and friends were all taken to one side and told to expect the worst. It looked very likely that I would not pull through. I overheard this and thought, ‘no way is that happening without a fight.’”
He added: “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me and kept asking if I was in a dream and would I wake up. Why did it happen to me? How come I contracted this? It was so unreal.
“One minute, I was a healthy 57-year-old with a racing car, a trials bike and I was learning and restoring two mini motos whilst eagerly awaiting the birth of my daughter’s child, my second grandchild. I was a model car racer, college lecturer in Electrical Installation, wiring and testing, engineering, technical drawing. You name it – I could do it!
“Now, I was a ’wreck.’ I couldn’t eat, drink, wash or go to the toilet myself.”
Two weeks after admitting himself to hospital, Graham was transferred to the Neurology Ward at Preston Royal.
This would prove to be the turning point as doctors were able to diagnose that he had indeed been affected by encephalitis.
However, survivors of encephalitis, such as Graham, can face an uncertain future as encephalitis can leave them with an acquired brain injury and affect abilities such as concentration, attention, thinking, memory, judgement and inhibition.
There can also be additional challenges, such as epilepsy or fatigue, which means a return to a normal working life or education can be difficult. Graham said: “I know that my personality has changed; I am a little quick-tempered and need to think before I say some things.
“I get mentally tired quicker than I used to and these are things that my therapist and are working on.
“It is still early days yet, but if I realise my problems that is half the battle and can be worked on. You feel okay but my family and friends can see the difference.”
His rehabilitation has seen him undergo months of physiotherapy and occupational therapy as he rebuilds his life. He has had to re-learn how to walk and talk as well as simple things like feeding himself and cooking for the family. Recently, Graham returned to his job as an Electrical Tutor Assessor with Blackburn-based Training 2000 Limited albeit only for three days a week as he is gradually phased back.
Now he is hoping for a big turnout at this year’s Pendle Powerfest at Nelson & Colne College where The Encephalitis Society will be the chosen charity of the family fun day which he helped to create.
He is one of the team of volunteers who work year round to create a unique day out for petrol heads and families alike.
With an Italian Job Film Set, Supercars, demonstrations, sports, live music and lots more the show aims for a “something for everyone approach.”
Graham said: “Pendle Powerfest is a must for anyone who loves anything on two or four wheels. It will be a lot of fun and at the same time we can educate people about encephalitis – a condition which not many people know about.
“I have no regrets about my life and the things I have seen and done. I just hope I can reach a good level of life again. One in which I can see my grandchildren grow, drive my car again, ride my trials bike and be able to do things with my hands like I could before.
“I recall that saying: ‘time is a great healer’ and I am prepared to go along with this. Frustration does take over some times, but why rush things. Tomorrow things could be better – who knows!”