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Gary's Journey: World Encephalitis Day

On February 22nd, as the world turned its attention to raising awareness for World Encephalitis Day, we at Routes To Work wanted to join hands with communities worldwide to shine a light on this often misunderstood condition.

Encephalitis, a condition affecting up to 6,000 people in the UK annually and hundreds of thousands globally, takes a devastating toll on individuals and their loved ones. This year, many buildings worldwide lit up in a vibrant shade of red, we stand in solidarity with survivors like Gary Swan, who our Routes To Work Team supported into recovery and life transformation.

Gary Swan's story is one of remarkable resilience. A talented tap dancer and highly respected and hard-working member of the hospitality industry, Gary's life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with encephalitis in 2021. As a result of his injury, Gary struggled with short-term memory loss, facial blindness, and challenges in daily living skills.

Although Gary's journey towards recovery was not without its challenges as he faced moments of uncertainty and frustration, he navigated the complexities of life post-encephalitis with great determination. Supported by his loving family and the dedicated team at Routes To Work, Gary embarked on a journey of rehabilitation and rediscovery. Our Routes To Work Team provided invaluable support, instilling confidence and offering tailored assistance every step of the way.

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 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.”

While things are very different now, Gary is back on track, happy, successful, still using his talents, and making steps towards rediscovering his independence. His incredible journey has been acknowledged not only by everyone at Routes To Work, but also by the prestigious ERSA Employability Awards in November 2023, where Gary won the “Achiever of the Year Award” – and we couldn’t be more proud of him. Read Gary’s full story in our Annual Report 2023-24.

Unfortunately, the general public has little to no knowledge of this condition and how it affects patients and families alike. Therefore it is so important to have a recognised Encephalitis Awareness Day on the 22nd February each year and to use the colour Red as a symbol to light up prominent landmarks and buildings like the Buchanan Tower in Stepps and Edinburgh Castle and raise that much-needed awareness.

Also, as part of this Awareness Day, The Chestnut Cafe in Stepps Parish Church, where Gary volunteers and teaches some line dancing, held a charity morning and raised £400 for the Encephalitis Charity.

As we commemorate World Encephalitis Day, let us honor the resilience of survivors, raise awareness about the challenges they face, and pledge our continued support in the journey towards healing and recovery.

In the words of Gary Swan himself, "I can’t thank Routes To Work enough. They have been a massive part of my recovery and helped me get back to work."

Together, let us continue to light up hope and pave the way for brighter futures for all those affected by encephalitis.

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