A stable and secure home is something which many of us take for granted, but not so for Andrea (45), who’s faced a lifetime of struggles after being born with hydrocephalus. Four and a half years
ago, after being rushed to hospital on the brink of starvation, Andrea met our evangelist, Val Fernandez, who offered her new hope for the future by becoming her carer. Now, as part of the nationwide Shared Lives scheme, Andrea lives with Val in Caerphilly, South Wales, where she is building a better life for herself…
“I’ve had brain surgery three times already because of hydrocephalus – a condition which causes a build-up of fluid in my skull and my brain to swell. I had an emergency operation last year and I was in terrible pain. I didn’t think I was going to make it. Val got everyone she knows to pray for me and I think that helped me get better.
Hydrocephalus causes short-term memory loss, for example I forget where I put things, or what I said the day before. It also causes me to suffer from mood swings. And I’ve had to have a shunt fitted which drains away the fluid from my brain into my bladder.
When I was little, I had to go to a school for children with special needs, but it was a struggle for me to keep up with my schoolwork because of all my hospital appointments. As a result, I still don’t read or write very well. My dream was to become a nurse, but I couldn’t because of my condition.
After my parents died, I lived with my brother. He didn’t look after me like he should have and I ended up being rushed into hospital with extreme malnutrition. I was in hospital for two months. It was then I
was put in touch with Val. She came to visit me in hospital and we got on well from the moment we met. When I was discharged from hospital, I moved in with her.
I enjoy living with Val. I feel safe and comfortable and I love my bedroom, it’s nice and cosy. Val cooks me healthy meals and I set the table and help her. She is good company and makes me laugh. She’s also someone I can turn to when I feel down.
I love music and Val often takes me to watch musicals at the theatre. We also go on holidays together, last Christmas, we went to stay at a nice Christian hotel.
Four years ago, Val encouraged me to start attending a ladies-only gym. At first I was very nervous and had to be helped on and off the equipment. Since then I’ve become a lot more confident and it’s really helped me to have better balance and strengthen my legs.
Val also introduced me to another lady she cares for called Ann and I’ve started going to special needs bowling games with her. I’m usually quite shy, but Ann and I have become good friends. In 2017, we took part in the Special Olympics and we both won bronze medals for ten-pin bowling! I feel very proud of this achievement. Val also nominated me as ‘the most transformed’ person at the gym and I won the award.
I feel that I’ve changed a lot since meeting Val. Before, I was scared to try out new things. Now, I believe in myself more and know I can accomplish things if I set my mind to it. I’m more confident and at peace with myself. Thanks to Val, I’m a much happier person.”
Val says “I was commissioned with Church Army in 1986. I had a ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion experience and immediately felt like I wanted to serve God somehow. I’ve been supporting those with special needs for seven years through Shared Lives. This can be through sessional work, respite care or a long-term placement. One of my greatest joys is watching people gain confidence and blossom as they begin to recognise their value and self-worth.”
You can support our evangelists working with people like Andrea through helping finance their training which will equip them to serve others and share the Good News of Jesus. If you’d like to do so, you can donate online.
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You can also read more stories of transformation from other areas of our work here.