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Gary's story



Confidence & Motivation

Routes to Change Indicators

Successful, happy, talented and living independently, Gary Swan was everything he could have hoped for himself.

However, in 2021, one incident turned his life upside down.


Gary, from Stepps, suffered a brain injury brought on by encephalitis - a rare but serious condition.


For accomplished tap dancer Gary, it was like life as he knew it didn’t exist anymore.


No longer could he run his business, nor live on his own. Gary had to move in with his mum and, slowly, start again.

Gary recalled: “Unfortunately, I fell ill with encephalitis, which is a brain injury.


“I was unable to work at the time, but my brain team suggested Routes To Work as a support method to get back into work.


“I know a lot of other patients just can’t work, they don’t have the confidence to put themselves out there for the fear of not knowing what’s going to happen next.


“I don’t know if I’d have been able to go back to work without them.”

Thankfully, he could count on his mum, Linda, for support and when he was referred to Routes To Work by the NHS brain injury team, things started to turn around.


It wasn’t without its challenges, though, as Gary struggled to overcome the barriers brought on by his brain injury, at first.


His anxiety was heightened, frustration abounded at his new-found short-term memory problems and even simple things like travel became huge struggles.


However, his confidence and self-esteem grew, and Gary began to yearn for gainful employment.


With the benefit he was on, Gary didn’t need to look for work, but with the support of his mum and caseworker Janice Shilliday, they started to search for the hospitality opportunity he desired.


Through an old friend, Gary was invited to be a waiter at the Hard Rock Cafe.


While he had an initial high at getting the job, he soon realised it would be too much, too soon.


The practicalities of remembering orders and working quickly to serve customers were too big an obstacle to overcome.

“I’d been working in hospitality all my life,” he said.


“When I first started, I went as a server, but part of my illness is short-term memory loss so trying to recall orders, remembering what people asked you for, is very difficult.”


With a supportive friend on his side, however, Gary was moved into a host role he is now thriving in - welcoming and seating customers in his own unique style.


He added: “The team is fantastic and my line manager is so supportive and helpful as well.


“There’s been lots of dance-offs with young guests in the restaurant, yes!”


Happy and settled in the job, Gary sought more support for his mental health, as he came to terms with his injury and the life ahead of him.


After obtaining access to counselling, Gary burst into tears after his first session, realising the impact it could have moving forward.


While things are very different now, Gary is back on track, happy, successful, still using his talents and making steps towards rediscovering his independence.


He said: “You’ve always got to laugh, because you need to remember where I was and where I am now.


“It’s a big, big leap in the right direction.


“It’s day by day, but every day is a part of the Gary Swan journal.”

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