Brain injury survivor shares his recovery story as he looks forward to Northampton Pride 2022

55-year-old Dennis Gent from Northampton is gay. He loves dying his hair purple, spending time with his friends and enjoying life to the fullest. However, this was not always the case.

Just seven months ago, Dennis couldn’t see a future for himself. Alcohol dependent and with a brain injury from two strokes, as well as repeated falls and seizures, he was unable to lead an independent life.

He despised himself, had no meaningful relationships, and his future seemed bleak.

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The much more inclusive new Pride flag, incorporating the Trans Pride flag along with a black and tan stripe for People of Color. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dennis said: “I had no reason to get up, I just lay in bed every day and got drunk. I didn’t give a damn about myself.”

Dennis’ past, which he described as “traumatic,” led him to become an alcoholic for over 30 years. He drank nine cars of beer a day, which resulted in him being constantly intoxicated and often unable to leave his bed.

Living with a disability and addiction has had a devastating effect on Dennis’ mobility, memory and ability to go about his daily life

Fast forward to the present and after seven months of rehab care at Wycliffe House – an adult day care center in Northampton – Dennis now wakes up full of energy every morning.

Dennis said: “I used to cover the mirror but now when I look in the mirror I love Dennis. I don’t hate myself anymore.”

This year Dennis will celebrate Northampton Pride 2022 with his friends and support team for the first time.

It was late 2021 when the team at Wycliffe House, part of the Active Care Group, became aware of Dennis’ situation and took him into their care.

Wycliffe House team leader Julie Garner said: “I’m so glad we fought for him. We take in people here that no other ministry can support. In fact, the CQC commended us for it.

“We can fight addiction, but we don’t force it. Some people here have never been spoken to like normal people before, at eye level.”

Now Dennis’ week consists of regular gymnastics and physio sessions and his mobility has improved significantly to the point that he can now walk with the help of a cane. His alcohol consumption has dropped to three cans a day, which his GP and social worker said they were “very pleased”.

He has also reintegrated himself into society through art classes, gardening and cooking with roommates.

Dennis, who used to have one seizure every week, has had two seizures in the past seven months.

Reflecting on his experience at Wycliffe House, Dennis says, “I don’t consider this place a care home, I consider it my home. I don’t feel like a prisoner here.

“I have full support here – 110 per cent support. I now have a reason to get up in the morning.”

Dennis is now excitedly making plans to celebrate Pride for the first time this year. He plans to attend the Northampton Pride Festival with friends on Sunday June 26th and then host a tea party in the garden of Wycliffe House.

Dennis says he is “proud” to be himself, “glad to be gay” and able to walk head high and “not ashamed” at the gay pride march.

Meanwhile, nursing staff continue to provide emotional support to Dennis to help him cope with the trauma he has experienced and the difficult relationships he has had with his family.

Although there is still a long way to go, he recently managed to celebrate his mother’s 91st birthday by laying flowers in the garden at Wycliffe House, in what he described as a “big step” for him.

Seven months ago, Dennis’ future was bleak. Now it shines as bright as the colors of the Pride flag.

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