‘Tower abseil was a big achievement for me’

Janice Dugan
Janice Dugan

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Janice Dugan is proof that a brain injury can affect anyone, drastically changing life in an instant.

When she suffered a severe bleed to the brain four years ago, she was giving only a 20 per cent chance of survival.

Declared unsafe to operate on, doctors placed Janice in an induced coma and her family were told to prepare for the worst.

But against the odds she pulled through and is now an inspiration for all those dealing with the effects of brain injuries.

The 51-year-old is full of optimism, embracing life’s challenges. She recently abseiled down the Spinnaker Tower – despite only having the use of one arm,

Her husband Bill says he could not be more proud of Janice.

Bill, 51, from Gosport, says: ‘I’m so proud of her. To think about how she was four years ago and to see her now, taking on an abseil, is amazing.’

Janice was just 48 when she suffered an intracerebral haemorrhage in 2012 which left her in an induced coma and fighting for her life.

Bill explains: ‘I remember it happened on a Friday and I was just overcoming the flu.

‘Janice was complaining of a headache and feeling sick on the Thursday, but we just put it down to her contracting the illness from me.

‘On the Friday, she was still complaining of a headache and was being sick.

‘Luckily, our son had a day off from college and he phoned me and said “Something’s definitely not right.”

‘I came straight home and found her in a state of unresponsiveness.

Janice was taken by ambulance to QA Hospital, where a brain scan revealed that she had suffered a massive bleed. It was not safe to operate and she was put into an induced coma.

‘When we were at the hospital, they took me into a room and told me she was unlikely to survive.

‘At the time, I was just in a state of disbelief. Completely and utterly shocked by what I was being told. It was all too much to take in and all I was thinking “how could this be happening when 24 hours before she was fine?”’

The mum-of-three defied the odds to pull through and subsequently spent three months in QA.

The couple have three children Paul, 35, Jade, 27, and Chay, 21, and one granddaughter. With the support of her family, friends, and medical professionals, Janice started to rebuild her life.

Bill says: ‘If you knew Janice before, she couldn’t sit still for five minutes so it was hard for her to process that she couldn’t do a lot of things like before. She had a lot of questions that needed to be answered to deal with it all.

‘She had always been the first person to help someone if they needed it, so when the role suddenly reversed and she was depending on others, that was difficult for her.

‘It was really tough for her but it was also hard for me.

‘You feel like you’re sat on the sidelines watching the person you love struggle.’

Janice, who has a ‘never say never’ attitude, is determined to live life to the full.

As testament to this, she took on an abseil challenge in July to raise money for the brain injury charity Headway, which has been supporting her along her journey.

Bill says; ‘I was so emotional watching her complete it.

‘If someone had told me back then that she would get to a point where she would be doing an abseil, I would not have believed them.

‘As soon as she had finished it she told me she wanted to do it all over again.

‘She’s an inspiration and is proof that anything is achievable for someone who has suffered a serious brain injury.’

Janice hopes the 100m abseil down the side of Portsmouth’s iconic landmark will inspire others and she is now exploring all the avenues that her disability will allow her.

Janice says: ‘I absolutely loved doing the abseil. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it on my own, as I only have the use of one arm, but it was great taking it on by myself, although it took me a little bit longer than it does for most people.

‘It was emotional. My family and friends were in tears by the time I got to the bottom, but they were tears of joy.

‘I’m really glad that I did it – it is a big achievement for me.’

Bill now works part-time so he can focus on caring for his wife, who has paralysis in one arm.

He says; ‘She still has good days and bad days but she has made an incredible amount of progress and I’m so proud of her.

‘I always used to be someone who planned ahead, but I don’t like planning anything any more.

‘Everything that has happened just shows how your life can change in an instant. Now we take everyday as it comes and live for the day.

‘I’d say to anyone going through similar experiences to remain positive. Life will and does get better – there will be really tough days and times when you think you can’t go on, but I promise things will improve.’

Janice has so far raised around £700 for Headway. To make a donation, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/Janice-dugan