Having been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease (HD), and being forced to deal with the death of his son, Darran was left feeling suicidal – but has now turned his life around to support and inspire others. Here the winner of the 2023 NR Times Inspirational Contribution Award, sponsored by TRU Rehab, discusses his life, his return to independence after leaving St Andrew’s Healthcare, and how his clinical psychologist Dr Vincent Harding has supported his journey
How does it feel to be named as winner of the NR Times Inspirational Contribution Award?
It just felt like I was part of something bigger. I can sit back okay now, with goodness inside me from my achievement.
Do you think of yourself as being inspirational?
Really I’ve only been enlightened on the subject since St Andrew’s. I wanted the same for people around me who have the same condition.
You have experienced many challenges in your life. What advice can you give on learning to deal with what life throws at you?
When challenge comes, I tend not to swerve away from it. Instead, I sit with it and keep grounded, working out a way forward and now things have changed a bit and I can have a better nights sleep.
You are now living independently in the community. How does that feel?
As good as I thought. This is my permanent home now. No more thinking about changing accommodation. I do miss some relationships with people I met and worked with at St Andrew’s. I’m looking forward to being a more active part of the community.
How have the skills and confidence you have gained at St Andrew’s helped you in achieving this?
Believing in people. I had to find the right people and I didn’t have to look far at St Andrew’s. My outcome was in trusting the staff who helped fuel my progress. It was a two-way street. I was so lucky in my journey. It was what I was looking for and needing. I’m happy with the outcome.
What were the highlights of your time spent at St Andrew’s?
Meeting certain staff and making some friendships. It was other people who helped me heal. Each area I lived in was like a bit of magic, which has stayed with me. My thinking has changed. I feel accomplished by what I’ve achieved and been awarded. My main aim was to do the best I could and that’s what I did. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What advice can you give to people about how to live well with HD?
Try to be patient with yourself, believe in others and find trust. Belonging and inclusion is a process.
What inspires you to be as committed as you are to supporting others?
It’s something I needed. Those skills I had were dormant. I wanted to do more and help others. It’s the best way forward, helping me and others to have the best day.
Dr Vincent Harding shares his experience of working with Darran and the progress he has made in his life since coming to St Andrew’s
How would you describe Darran?
I first met and started working with Darran back in May 2021. Darran has always been very willing to engage, very open and honest, and ready to share his experiences. He has grabbed opportunities with both hands at every step of the way. That has really helped him to get to where he is now.
What is your view of the work he does to support others?
Darran has done a huge amount of media work to raise the profile of HD, including radio interviews, and publications with NR Times and the Independent, which gained national coverage. He was also part of a Hope Exhibition which has been on display at several key locations, nationwide. His commitment to living well with HD, and helping others to do the same is truly inspiring.
How big an achievement is it to return to living independently?
It is so pleasing to see what Darran has accomplished. He is a real inspiration to so many people. He has been very receptive to, and engaged with all of the professionals he has worked with. His
strength and determination to live well and with hope for the future is inspiring.
You have worked closely with Darran during his time at St Andrew’s and clearly have built a bond. How important can a positive therapeutic relationship be in achieving goals?
Developing a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship is key, as is identifying the person’s values, wants, needs and goals. We can then work together to co-produce person-centred care and treatment plans to support consistency and improved experiences and outcomes.
Will you still be able to support him in the community?
Yes, I continue to work with Darran now that he has moved into the community.
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