BURSTING with enthusiasm and dressed in the velvet robes of a Tudor gentleman, volunteer Simon Skuse shows little sign of the haemorrhage which almost killed him.
As he strides between exhibits at the Mary Rose Museum, it is hard to imagine the frail, confused man who began volunteering four years ago.
When he applied, Simon was recovering from a major brain haemorrhage.
After spending a year in hospital and months in a wheelchair, his self-esteem was shattered.
‘In June 2009 I came downstairs to go to work,’ he said. ‘I sat on the sofa in the lounge and woke up two weeks later in the neurological centre at Southampton Hospital. I’d had a subarachnoid haemorrhage which only has a 20 per cent survival rate.
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‘I couldn’t remember anything, my balance had gone and I couldn’t write properly. The worst thing is you lose your self-respect.’
Simon’s neuropsychologist encouraged him to volunteer at the museum because of his interest in history.
Simon, 63, said: ‘I thought there’s no way they’ll take me – it’s not going to happen. I’d lost all my self-confidence and I wasn’t the same person.’
He was astonished to be offered a position 10 days later, and his first days were difficult. He needed a walking stick to get around and struggled to navigate between exhibits.
Simon said: ‘It was frightening, overwhelming. I thought “I can’t do this”, but they calmed me down and said “stick with it”.
‘I only found out recently that when I first started they were so worried about me they gave me the same routine each Saturday so I could learn it.
They don’t mollycoddle me, but they’re aware I’ve had problems and they’ve built that into my duties.’
Simon now gives public talks about the Mary Rose and his confidence has skyrocketed.
He said: ‘What you see now isn’t what you would have seen four years ago. My friends have noticed a huge change in me. It’s the museum that has made that change – it’s nothing else.’
The Mary Rose is in the final of the National Lottery Awards, to win a £10,000 cash prize. Vote at MaryRose.org/NLAMaryRose or by tweeting with #NLAMaryRose before Wednesday, August 21.