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Inspirational Niki is nominated for national award
AN inspirational Wirral woman who defies her own disabilities in order to help others has been shortlisted for a national award.
Niki Finnegan, 30, from Prenton, is one of three people across the UK competing for the title of Achiever of the Year in the annual awards run by the charity Headway, the brain injury association.
For the past 17 years, Niki has been battling two separate brain injuries that left her with severe disabilities and shattered her dreams for the future.
A promising swimmer who had high hopes of representing her country, Niki’s life changed when she suffered a respiratory arrest following an asthma attack.
She was just 13 and the attack left her with an anoxic brain injury. Niki’s personality and behaviour were affected, while she also struggled to process information and suffered with poor memory.
Niki had damaged her frontal and temporal lobes, but the damage was not diagnosed until many years later – after she had left school.
The brain injury was diagnosed when she was 20 and she was referred to a cognitive psychologist and began to receive help to understand and overcome her cognitive problems.
She went on to complete her education at Hugh Baird College, Liverpool, and won the prestigious Achievement Award in 2008, given to students who manage to complete their studies despite significant challenges.
Tragically, later that year Niki suffered a stroke, which put paid to the development she’d made. Even the simplest of tasks, such as reciting the alphabet or telling the time, were now beyond Niki.
Her mobility was also affected and although she tried to maintain an independent life with her mother’s help, she finally had to admit she could not cope and moved into a residential care home in Claughton in 2010.
Niki has dedicated herself to helping others similarly affected by brain injury by doing a variety of activates ranging from working as a moderator for an online chat room for children and vulnerable adults with child-like personalities.
She has taken part in various sponsored events, including the Mersey Walk of Hope, which she completed in her wheelchair.
Niki started attending art classes at a local college and immediately impressed tutors with her attitude and ability. Her artwork has been displayed in exhibitions across Wirral and Liverpool to raise awareness of brain injury.
She is also an active member of Headway Wirral, the local branch of the national charity supporting people affected by brain injury.
Proud mum Patricia, who nominated Niki for the award, said: "It's hard to put into words how inspirational Niki is.
"The strange thing is, if you ask Niki she’ll just tell you that she’s nothing special and is just getting on with life. But that in itself makes her very special in not just my eyes, but the eyes of every person she touches with her generous spirit.
"Niki has been through so much. She has overcome such horrendous problems and despite everything her primary focus is to help other people. I am incredibly proud of her and I am so pleased she is being recognised in this way."
A humble Niki said: "I enjoy helping other people, particularly when I attend Headway meetings.
"There are other people out there worse off than me and I want to help them in any way I can.
"I certainly don’t think I’m special, I’m just getting on with it. You have to make the best of life and that’s what I’m trying to do, while helping others do the same. I’m very nervous about the awards ceremony, but I’m also very excited."
The Achiever of the Year will be named at a glittering ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London on December 7.