Who Are You Now?

Danny Muir

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football trophy

This is the truth. Out of all the things I've achieved, the thing I get most satisfaction out of is that I've made my mum and dad proud. You see now, they can see that I'm doing good. Everything I do is good. I've learned the errors of my ways. But it's took a lot. You see my mum and dad, I put them through hell, even before the injury.

1 Bad behaviour

I was a very keen footballer when I was younger. That was my dream. I represented the school, then the borough of Newham. Michel Platini, Glen Hoddle – they was my idols.

I was always told 'do well at school because, you see, later in life, you regret it,' and I swear to God there's never a more true saying. At first I was really good: first, second, third year. All of a sudden my testosterone must have got too high because I started misbehaving. I wanted to be the big wise guy. Every single morning, without fail, I didn't turn up to school till about ten o'clock. My mum used to get me up before she left for work, so I was up, but then as soon as she goes out the door I go back to bed! I was always bunking off – we used to go over the park, smoke cannabis. I got suspended a few times. So the football now has gone a bit on the back burner.

We'd smash people's windows, we'd block off roads and then pelt the cars and the people with bricks. So much round the estate… uproars. We used to set rubbish chutes alight and call the fire brigade. Now I can see it's pathetic and you should never do it but we used to get a kick out of it. We were scallywags, like. My parents didn't have a clue really because the school used to give me letters to give to them, so what do you reckon was going on with them? Ha ha ha! They was in the bin! For the life of me I can't believe they gave me the letters.

I finally got expelled when I was fifteen. All I got was a D in art. And that's only because they submitted the coursework I'd done. I went on a training course where my mum worked at the council. I think this is when I knew I weren't going to be a footballer because I then got escorted out the building for bad behaviour. My mum still works there now.

2 Big bravado

I was into partying from a young age. We used to go to this place in Romford called Hollywoods. On a Tuesday it was the night for teenagers and we used to go every Tuesday without fail. We used to go there, get boozed up, and have a fight. We was only kids, like fifteen, sixteen. The bouncers used to try and stop us from going in but we used to sneak round and someone would open the back exit.

Hollywoods Nightclub, 1995
(image © Barry Croxall)

There was probably about thirty of us, probably even more than that. It was areas like Bethnal Green, Stepney, Poplar, Bow. We all used to meet at Stratford and get the Overground and we used to cause havoc on that train. I feel sorry for anyone who was on it with us.

When I was sixteen I went with my uncle to a proper rave. It was on the Thames. Have you heard of ICF West Ham [1]? They done a party on a boat. There was me, this little kid, I was partying with all these big hard-nuts, you know what I mean? And I liked the respect that they was getting and you could just feel that they was something. Without them even talking, you could just feel the aura around them. I think I was too young to be scared, you know?

When I was eighteen I started going out partying at Benjy's – it was in Bow, it's on the corner of Mile End, a well known club. I'd say probably from a Thursday to a Sunday we was going out boozing. It was always go out, have a fight, have a drink, get a bird. Every week it woulda been one different girl at least, do you know what I mean? And it was one of them where you could just say "Come on darling, you're coming home with me." It was crazy. I'd be out all night. As long as I didn't collide with my dad it was alright cause if he would've seen me coming in he'd have got angry and we would've had a punch-up.

My parents said you should behave yourself, they said "you're going one way". I just used to brush it off and walk out.

This was when I started getting the big bravado, when I was getting proper cock-sure. I was at this christening and I got talking to an older man. I asked him did he know my uncle and he went "Oh, that mug." I went "try saying that to his face then." He went "you little flash c—," and pulled out a knife. And it ain't clever, but it was either me or him, right? I took his knife off him, I took it off him, and I said "you better fucking take that back." He come running at me so what do I do? I've got the knife in my hand. I stabbed him. He ended up on the floor. I was shitting myself. I ran away and chucked the knife on the grass. I told the police where it was but they couldn't find it. So now I'm bang in trouble. They're now saying "where's all the marks on your hand? If you've took a knife off someone, you would have cuts on your hand." I don't know how it happened. I thought 'fucking hell I must be a bit special. This geezer, who thought he was jack-the-lad in the East End, I've took his own knife off him and stabbed him.'

The man never turned up to court. That's how I got off with it.

I'm trying to show you the escalation of how much of a little shit I was. I was doing bad stuff, earning money. I used to have police knocking on my door all the time. And my mum and dad are not like that. My dad goes to work from five in the morning till six at night every day. He can go out for a beer, the next day he might get up at six instead of five but he'll still get home at six o'clock. They're good people so to have police at their door was shameful for them. The football'd gone now. And I'm gutted now because I wish I would have carried on with it because even if I didn't make it, it would have kept me out of trouble.

3 Classed as a bully

When I was nineteen I got arrested for something I never done. And it kills me because I think the police know I didn't do it. It was a stabbing. I didn't even know it took place until they come banging on my door but the boys picked me out on ID parade and I got three years for affray with intent. I met a boy inside whose mates it was, I said "how'd they pick me out?" and he went "because the police showed them a photo of you before you went on the parade." Whether that's true I don't know. It's what he's told me. They wouldn't even let me appeal against it or nothing, it was just cast iron. My solicitor should've upped her game and realised that something weren't right.

First of all I was in Feltham, then they moved me to Dover YOI [2] cause that's where you do your sentence. I was angry cause I was innocent. I started fighting and I got classed as a bully on a basic living [3]. That means you get two-fifty a week, you only get an hour's exercise a day and you're always in your cell.

I was in there for eighteen months. I could have been in for longer but me and this boy beat up a Yardie [4] in the workshop because he was too flash. All of a sudden he started having a fit. I thought 'Ah, for fuck's sake, what have we done here?' He's frothing and swallowing his tongue and then the geezer who's running the workshop pressed the alarm and all the medics come over. I've opened up his jaw and, like, holding his tongue out. He was biting onto my fist but I've saved his life so now they've given me everything, haven't they? You're top of the shop, like, you can have all the goodies, you can spend as much money as you want because you've saved this boy's life! So that was lovely.

I was twenty-one when I was released. Must have been October '97. I was out for six months and then I got my head injury.

4 A good but make-believe life

In that six months I lived the life of Riley. That life you couldn't pay for. That was the life that I thought I would live for the rest of my life. Wherever I was, I used to have people come up to me and say "can I have a photo of you?" "Oh, you're Danny Muir, shake my hand." I wouldn't have to phone people up and say "Oh, you coming out tonight?" I'd get a hundred and one phone calls. I felt like a celebrity. I think it was for the fact that I was a young boy and I'd been in prison and that weren't the norm. When I was in there I was always training so I come out with a nice physique. I was arrogant, rude, couldn't give a monkey's about nothing. I had this confidence and I was angry and people just thought 'wow, he's special.'

At the time I loved it, I lapped it up! But now I don't agree with it because it's a bigger fool you for going in prison. Allegedly you've done something bad so really you shouldn't be put on a pedestal. It's just the mentality of the East End, I think.

I caused absolute havoc everywhere I went. The people I got put away for, when I was inside I'd asked them: "I'm doing this time, I want some money for it." Basically they told me to fuck off cause they thought I'm never coming out. They're so thick! I'm gonna come out one day! After I was released I see one of them in Epping Forest Country Club. He's then smiling, trying to come up to me and shake my hand. So I gave him a back-hander. There was loadsa girls there, it made him look silly. Everyone was holding me back and, like, comforting him, cause he was a bit distraught.

I was always going to the gym as well so I kept up my physique. I was fit, d'you know what I mean? I done no drugs or nothing, all I done was had a drink.

That six months was the best time of my life. But what comes with being a bad guy? Bad things. It was a good but make-believe life. And it's one that I would never want to go back to because of what it brought with it. I had friends from all parts of London: West, North and South. They don't even know I exist now.

5 A little heated conversation

These boys was bullying my friend. He was young and good-looking, popular with the girls, and these older boys were jealous. I'm in Mile End in a pub when I see them. I call them in the toilet: "I think I need to have a word with you." When we gone in the toilet I pulled out a knife. I weren't fucking about with them, I was gonna do them. They've got out the toilet and I've chased them down Mile End: they was gone. The next week I've seen what I thought was one of the boys in a club and I've smashed him in the face. It turns out it weren't him, it was his younger brother. So what with me chasing them with a knife already the boys knew that if I got hold of them something was definitely gonna go on.

About two weeks later I was outside of a nightclub and I got run over. I got up but the driver drove off. At hospital they've just given me these very, very strong painkillers and said "Whatever you do, don't drink no alcohol." All my head was swollen, my eye was bloodshot.


The next week was my friend's 21st birthday. I weren't drinking no alcohol at first but I could see everyone enjoying theirself, partying, and there's me on the lemonades and the cokes and that, bored, getting all humpy and all of a sudden I've had a beer. Had another one. Well now I'm high as a kite with these painkillers, falling everywhere.

My pals have all gone home and told me to go home but I was their top boy, so I said "Fuck off! I'm going to meet my bird." This is what my mates told me after, I don't know if this is gospel. So one friend came with me to the next club and what happens? I seen the boys who I've got trouble with. A little heated conversation's gone on and me and my mate have gone in the toilet with them but I've told my mate to fuck off: "They can't do nothing to me." Anyway, the famous one – I give one of them a back-hand. The worst mistake I ever made!

I think there was about five of them. I don't know. That's how many my mate said there was. Anyway, they've dived on me, I'm on the floor, they're jumping on my head. And then, whatever. The bouncers must've come in and chucked them out and then got the ambulance cause I'm on the floor and I ain't waking up for love nor money. As I'm getting taken out the club, my uncle's at the fucking entrance, waiting to come in. Someone's crying and said "That's Dan." My uncle said "No."

It just gets me, that bit there because, you know, my uncle was right there. If it had been another fifteen minutes later it wouldn't have happened.

6 My mum said, "you're not turning that off"

My life then changed. I was taken to UCL hospital. They said they couldn't do nothing for me so I was transferred to Queen's Square, the national neuro-hospital. I was in there for three weeks.

I'd sent my parents on a trip to Paris. They got the phone call to say "Danny's dead in hospital". I weren't fucking dead, I was resting! But they said I was brain dead and all that. You get a Glasgow Coma Scale, it rates your injury. There's three tests they do. I had nothing on any of them. They wanted to turn off my life support machine. My mum said "You're not turning that off." She said "I know my son. I know that he's responding. Just give it another day." Any other weak person would have listened to them, cause three weeks is a long time of not fucking living, not being able to exist, you know? What happens? I wake up.

The only memory I've got is when they was transferring me after I woke up from the coma. I vaguely remember the corridor. And then I was put into Homerton RNRU [5]. I was there for five and a half months having physio, speech and language, psychology – all the therapies, you know, to get your mind back together.

In the early days I'd say "I'll be alright in a couple of months." Me and my girlfriend at the time had a holiday booked for Mexico. I said to her, "don't worry, babe, we're still going on that holiday." It was only when I left hospital in the wheelchair that reality started setting in. I was distraught because I thought when you leave hospital you're supposed to be better. I was absolutely fuming.

This one night had changed my life completely. I'd like to say 360 but if I say 360 that means you're back to where you started. But I'm saying 360 in the sense that it's absolutely changed forever.

Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit



On 12.2.98 this 21 year old man was assaulted at a nightclub. His initial Glasgow Coma Scale on admission to St. Mary's casualty was 3 out of 15 [6]. He had bilaterally fixed dilated pupils [7] and suffered two fits. CT brain scan showed left subdural haemorrhage [8] together with mid-line shift [9] and cerebral swelling. He was transferred to The National Hospital for Neurology and underwent left fronto parietal craniotomy [10] and evacuation of subdural haemorrhage.

On examination at the National, he had a spastic quadraparesis [11] largely affecting his left side. Power was particularly good in his right arm. Reflexes were brisk throughout and plantars were both upgoing [12]. He was clearly able to obey commands including sticking out his tongue, pointing to his mother, father and staff nurse and also raising the correct number of fingers when asked. He had a PEG [13] and a urinary catheter in place and a tracheostomy [14]. He was incontinent of faeces. He had restricted eye movements in all directions. His speech was significantly impaired.

Prior to the assault he had his own council flat and spent half of his time living there and the other half with his parents. He was previously not working but in the past has done roofing work with his father.


Daniel has made progress since his initial admission to the RNRU. His speech has considerably improved and he is now understandable more or less all the time in conversation. His attention, memory and initiative have also improved. He is still at risk of aspiration and needs to make sure that he slows down with eating and drinking. He can now dress and groom his top half with supervision. He is starting on dressing of his bottom half. He is still shaky preparing drinks but will work on this and the tone in his left arm is beginning to reduce.

Daniel is now concentrating in physiotherapy sessions for 45 minutes and walking with 2 people. His memory for new material is still not good but is improving.

7 Hemiparesis


It's one-sided weakness. With me it's on the left. It was diagnosed very early I think, when I came out the coma, because they could see I had reflexes in one side of the body and not the other. Through all the time I've been in the NHS they've never really explained it. The only one who explained it was my private physio, Jo. This is my interpretation: the cells are damaged in that part of my brain and the messages are not getting through. It's all jumbled and muddled up.My sense of touch is normal. There was a time when it wasn't but that's progressed.

It's terrible. It's a burden. When I get tired my tone increases, or when I get cold; when I'm doing something strenuous; in crowded places or places where I'm not familiar, or with people I'm not familiar with. Some people get butterflies, my tone goes through the roof. Tone is when your muscles contract. When it happens, my hand gets really tight and that side of my body freezes up. It feels like I'm a robot, like I'm moving that side all as one, like I've got no flexibility. It's mad because on the right it don't happen. It makes me self-conscious, that's the worst thing. People look at you.

I went to a yoga class and the cheeky bastard said to me "relax", and I'm like "I am relaxing!" I used to have botulinum [15] injections: what it does, it relaxes the muscle to give you more freedom of movement. They inject in your wrist area and I had it in my bicep as well. But the last time I had it it paralysed my arm too much and I was very weak. I couldn't grip. I wouldn't have it done again because that really scared me.

Every morning I do an hour and a half of stretching and exercises just to keep it manageable. And what's strange is if I don't do my physio my fatigue is much worse – it comes on straight away after I get up.

8 He's talking through me

At the time I blamed everyone. And when the people who done it never got their comeuppance that really hurt. You'd've thought family, friends, they would've done something to avenge the loss of Danny Muir but it never really materialised. I know that people have seen them and they've had a fight with them and things like that but it don't account for the liberty that was taken with me.

All my friends were gone. Girls weren't interested in me – that broke my heart. I think I might have been hard work because I was really depressed. I was self-conscious because of who I thought I was and how I was being perceived now. And what happened to me, being in the fight, because of the reputation and the man I thought I was, that was the worst way it could happen. D'you know what I mean? I was embarrassed more than anything. I used to say – just to make it easy – "oh, I fell off a roof while I was at work," and then sort of have a little chuckle about it. I didn't have no confidence.

They had told me at hospital that within the first two years I'd get back most of whatever I was gonna get back. I got the wrong end of the stick. When it was coming up to the second anniversary of my injury I was on the phone to people saying "I'll be better tomorrow." I don't know whether I was told that to give me the motivation to try. I think it's really out of order cause when I didn't get better I got even more depressed and angry.

I remember the time about eighteen months after my injury when my mum took me to a gym and I was in a wheelchair. The geezer at the gym isn't talking to me, he's talking through me to my mum and when we got up to leave he shook my mum's hand and didn't shake mine – it was as though he just wanted the money, d'you know what I mean? Another membership sold.

I started going to Headway East London in 2001. I went with one of my closest friends. He'd had a head injury in a car accident some years before I had mine. When we got to the centre I went "do me a favour, is there anything you can do for us?" The lady who ran it, Miriam, said "yeah, there's loads of things you can do, your life ain't over." My friend didn't want to know. He didn't stick it. You see that friend of mine now? He's dead. He went to drink and drugs. I think he had a heart attack in the bath. His mum said "I wish he would've went down the same route as you."

I was at the centre for about a year. I was getting involved, making things like mosaics, going on the computers, cooking. I used to love playing solitaire and scrabble. It gave me something to do with my life, some kind of socialising – otherwise I was always indoors. And meeting people who were in the same situation as me was helpful – it made me realise I wasn't the only one.

But I could see old acquaintances living their lives and how they were still popular, going out, getting girls. I started thinking, 'I want my old friends back.' So I got involved with some drugs. Not taking them, but I was involved. I thought that was the way to get in, like, and get popular again. And I'm not bullshitting you but I'm so fucking glad I got caught. I got caught with eight ounces of cocaine. I thought I was invincible cause I was disabled. I thought, I'm sort of untouchable – I'm exempt from prison, d'you know what I mean? I thought the worst I'd get if I did get caught was, like, community service. Nah. I got two-and-a-half years. I was behind the door. It was funny, when I was in the court I had my walking stick and the judge went "there's nothing more that we can offer you apart from a custodial sentence." I got me walking stick, I went "are you joking?!" and I started going mad at him! So that probably done no favours. I went "you're a liberty taker!"

I was about twenty-six at this time.

9 A headache

I went to loads of different prisons because none of them didn't really want me because I had a head injury. I must have done about six prisons. I ended up in Wellingborough [16].

People in prison didn't understand. They looked at me as though I was an idiot, I was no-one. And then they was questioning me, "Why have you got a head injury and you're in prison?" I was getting the feeling they was trying to call me a sex offender. Because why would someone who was in the state I was – why would they be put in prison? It's gotta be for something weird and serious, d'you know, because otherwise they wouldn't put you in prison.

When I went in there, I had a walking stick. I was unbalanced and my walking was all over the place. They put me at the top of four flights of landings, right? It must've took me about ten minutes getting down the stairs. So I'm holding everyone up walking down the stairs to get my dinner. This arm ain't really working well, so I gotta use my right arm to walk up the stairs and carry the tray four flights. And this is where I was getting the name-calling, "COME ON! Hurry up, you f…" They got the nurse for me. Know what she done? "I know, I'll give you a paracetamol." I said, "are you joking?" She went, "yeah, you got a headache." I said "darling, it ain't nothing to do with that, I've had a head injury." I said, "I would-a took one of them long before now…" d'you know what I mean? And so then I've told the Board of Visitors [17] and they've got me moved onto the ground floor.

I met some really good people in there. There was a couple from Coventry who looked after me well but the ones from Leicester, I'll never forget them. They were a big part of my life. They got me through that sentence. They wouldn't have a bad word said against me. Couple of times people had called me nasty names and they've then had to move prisons because then it all come on top of them. They was getting me doing physio in the cell all day long. They used to watch me through the flap, make sure I was doing it! They used to call me 'Dapper' cause I had all the designer clothes, they used to bang on the flap and say 'Dapper, are you doing your stuff?' They used to take me out in the exercise yard, walk me about, like, to get me moving, d'you know what I mean? I still got their numbers and that but I've lost contact.


10 They was the people

There was many a time in those first five years when I wanted to take my life. It's only for the fact of my family – my mum and dad – that I stayed, cause, you see them people… all the amount of bollocks I caused them over the years. I fucked up their lives going in prison. Now I've had a head injury. They was the people there no matter what from day one to the end date, and they're still going now.

They don't treat me like someone different. They know how to handle me. When I'm going into one, my dad puts things in perspective. He's plain. He says, "Don't drive yourself mad. Don't worry about them, you've got us."

My dad, he's a fantastic man. He gets up early doors, comes home as late as you like. He's a roofer. I used to do labouring with him. But because I was a young boy and I thought I was the bee's knees, if I didn't want to get up I wouldn't have got out of bed. And because it's a dirty messy job – I must have tried his patience so much. And even more so now. But they still take me for me. When we talk on the phone I say "Hello big fella!" He ain't a big fella but he's got a bit of a derby – a belly – so I call him big fella as a joke.

My mum and dad have always been career people. I've got the utmost respect for them because everything they've got they've worked for. I've told family members what they mean to me. They might be taking it for granted now – I'm saying it one too many times!

11 The only one who passed

I was put away for two-and-a-half years but I done just over a year cause they let me out on tag. This was early 2004.

While I was on the tag I had to be at my mum's house. That lasted about three months. I think they was glad when I moved into my own place because they didn't have to put up with my frustrations and anger. I was still back and forth for a while, but gradually I got on my own two feet.

I then came back to Headway East London and there was a lovely lady I met, Nina. She was volunteering, doing communications stuff for charities and she was on the board of the day centre. See, that woman – she really helped me. She got me volunteering and got me to go to college. I got chucked out of school, remember, so 'college' was a swear word to me but I went there because I wanted to prove that I could learn something new. I done English Key Skills. The next level would have been going to GCSE. I used to get spoke to like an idiot in the class, so they must've been the most shocked in the world when I was the only person who passed it. I was just so determined. Not only that, I didn't want to bloody sit the course again!

Nina then got me on the day centre's board of Trustees as a co-optee. You're talking about chief executives of companies and senior partners in solicitor firms and you've got Danny Muir sitting here, who's had a head injury, he's got nothing to offer in this world and he's sitting here with all these people. Just that in itself, it gave me confidence.

12 I get nervous

What I can't understand, and it baffles me, I can't understand how I find it so difficult to form new friendships. I might seem unapproachable, I don't know. Am I unapproachable? It might be my personality. In new surroundings I get quite nervous. My tone goes up.

There's no one who I could go out for a drink with. There's no one I could go out for a meal with. D'you know what I mean? There are people I could probably ask but it seems as though it would be an effort. It's not a real relationship. I know people on the other side of Essex, like Loughton, Ongar, Buckhurst Hill, Epping, and in the East End. I know I could ask them but then it's either an effort for them to come to me or an effort for me to go to them. It would take probably fifty minutes either way.

The people from over that side of Essex, they're more new friends that I've acquired, so they know me for me. But they know me for drinking. They think I'm the funniest thing since sliced bread when I've had a drink. I don't think they realise that I can be this different person who's not the fun-loving person they know. And when I drink I feel terrible for a long time. I've now got it down to probably two days but I still feel absolutely terrible. It's not really worth it, cause drink, you see what it does, it numbs the pain while you're drunk; when you're not drunk it comes back.

And then my friends who I grew up with in the East End, I'm now a different person from who they knew. When you've been locked away people don't know how to react when you come back. It took me a long time to realise that I was a different person, so for someone else to accept me as someone different would probably be hard as well, d'you know? They can't acclimatise to the way you've changed. It's just like it or lump it.

And then again it's that thing you're going back to: it costs money to go out with people and I think, 'd'you know what? It's better just saving money'. So a lot of the time I don't really do anything.

People see that you don't go to work and they think that you're living the life of Riley. I had some cheeky bastard say to me "I'd love to live the life you live, you don't have to go to work," this is the caretaker of my block. I said "I tell you what to do then, I'll take your job for a day, you have my head injury for a day and see how you like it, yeah?" And he went, "oh as it happens, nah it's alright, you can keep that."

13 The stereotype

Dallas Kebab House, it's down Hackney Road, I don't know if it's still down there. They used to do a karaoke down in the basement so you could go in there after a kebab, after you'd been out clubbing. Well one night I went down there and there's this boy that I know from Bethnal Green. When we used to go to Hollywoods, I was telling you before, he used to be there so we used to always be fighting. Well there's this geezer who's really drunk, falling all over the place, getting a bit leery; he's tried to nick a cab. Well now the boy who I've known for years is having a fight with this geezer. So I'm trying to stop it. Everyone's holding me back, saying I'll get hurt. This is since my injury. Probably about eight years ago. So they're going toe-to-toe, punching each other, smashing the life out of each other, blood off of both of their faces. The guy who tried to nick a taxi has ended up on the floor. The one who I know – he's then started trying to jump on his head. So then I went 'fuck this,' I went, "Oi! Get off of him! Don't you know what's happened to me? Are you stupid? Fucking get off of him!" Afterwards he said sorry but it ain't the point. He shoulda knew that from the start. But people's judgement is clouded because of the alcohol, they don't know what they're doing, they just go crazy. I don't think they know the implications of kicking someone in the head. When I used to have a fight, you see booting someone in the head was lovely. You used to try and boot it as much as you can! I know it's horrible to say that. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't want to boot someone in the head. Never in a million years. D'you know what I mean? It's just ignorance.

This is why you need to go into schools but not just go in there once. You need to go in there and drum it into them, drum it, drum it, drum it. They need to know what jumping on someone's head, or someone just smashing their head violently, what it means, what the implications can be.

I do public speaking quite regular – any time they need someone to speak at an event I speak and I always get a warm reception, I always make them laugh and that. I've done it in schools, colleges, universities. I spoke at the House of Lords.

It's much better now than it was in 1998 but there's still a long way to go. We don't really get in the media enough. Locally, yeah, we get out there. Nationally, I don't think enough's done and that's what you need because not everyone reads the local paper, d'you know what I mean? They need a story that captivates them, a story they want to read. But do they want to read that, oh, someone's been in hospital, had a brain injury, oh, they survived? The majority of people need to hear something like, oh, he's had a brain injury, he's now a top lawyer. You ain't going to get them stories.

With a brain injury people might see that you're a bit different but they don't understand. They don't know if someone's got cancer but if you tell them they can sympathise because they know cancer's a terrible thing. You say you've had a brain injury, automatically they think 'he's a nutter.' They look at you and their whole demeanour changes towards you, their body language, the way they talk to you, like as if you're stupid. D'you know what I mean? But I can understand why people think that cause I've seen some people with a brain injury who are absolutely weird. But there's people who are in wheelchairs and they can't walk or anything, but you get them round a crossword, they'll do a crossword. The normal Joe Public won't be able to do a crossword.

We've got some people on the board of trustees who've had brain injuries – they're doing well at their job, they're quite high up. Even the secretary, he's had a brain injury but he works for one of the big councils, I think Kensington and Chelsea. So just because people have had a brain injury it don't mean to say their life stops.

I ain't looking for the sympathy vote. Everyone's responsible for their own actions. I made the choice to go to the club that night. If I'd have listened to people I wouldn't have gone. I'm telling this story to show that everyone is different. You have something to live for. There is a life, but it's a different life. I would like to try and sort out the stereotype but I can't be a one-man band, it's got to be a collaborative thing with other people who've had a brain injury. People like myself and others who can talk about it in a rational way, get them out in the public so people then can see that 'oh, you're not doo-lally.' There's film stars and people in the public eye who've had brain injuries but they don't wanna talk about it.

I was ignorant myself, d'you know what I mean? My friend that had a head injury, who died, I used to think of him as doo-lally. And then it happened to me.

Ahh I don't know. A brain injury's so complex. There are all these things associated with a brain injury where they're hard to explain to someone – you get tired for no reason, then you've got people with epilepsy, you've got all these different things, like their eyesight and their smell, their taste. 'What, you've had a knock to your head so you've got all this wrong?' Probably if you get people knowing more about the actual brain and what it does, its functions, I think that might be better. Then they might understand it's what gives you everything: emotion, personality, your physical self. It's what makes you you.

14 I'll end up losing her

I met my girlfriend through the usual – friends. She works as a dental nurse. She's also a makeup artist. I remember our first date was September the 19th, at the Gaucho Grill at the O2 Centre. In the early stages it was always us two, we never really socialised with other couples. And then it became a financial thing: I couldn't afford to keep going out. So then she used to come round to mine and the dates became dates indoors.

We had our first holiday. We went to Egypt. That's when I think we became really close. We're always talking, we don't stop. She's a chatterbox. What I like, she asks me questions that are a bit near the mark. Usually I'd say to someone "you nosy bastard," or "I don't want to talk about it," but she's got a way of asking the questions. Like, she'd ask me about my injury: "how do you feel, how could your life improve, how's it affected you?" And then, like, "how have you changed as a person?" She does it in a subtle way. I don't know if it's because I love the girl, but I don't take it personal cause I know she's not trying to be nosy, she wants to know me.

You see people who's allegedly normal, who ain't had the injury – they tend to make me feel inferior just by the way they look at you, and by the way they talk to you. Around my girlfriend I don't feel inferior. She didn't know me when we met, she knew nothing about me. She took me for me. As time has gone on she's got closer and closer. Sometimes she gets down, I'm there for her. I get down and she's there for me.

When I first met her my frustrations and my moody ways and things like that, my head injury ways, they was kept behind a door. She then stayed with me occasionally. At first because it was a new thing I think I was on best behaviour but over the period of time we got very comfortable with each other and she could then see the real me since my head injury. All the frustration, the fatigue.

Them bad days ain't gone. Someone could say something negative to me – you see at first I brush it off but where I've got so much time to just sit and think, it then leads me into a mind set that's negative. I get tired. I don't sleep properly. When I get up I'm all chirpy but towards the evening I start getting ratty. I'm like a little kid. You know like when a little child needs to go to bed and they go 'waaaahh!' Like I said, my parents had to cope with it and they found it hard and that's my mum and dad – d'you know what I mean? They love me eternally.

I've had the girl in tears. I scream and shout and take out all my frustrations on her. I don't mean to do it to her, I always have to apologise. She's understanding but you can only take so much. I'll end up losing her, I swear. You see after a while she'll think, 'well this geezer ain't changing.' There's got to be something I can do to change my frustrations but I'm living with the injury so how do you change it? You can't get rid of it.

I'm no spring chicken and the longest I've had a relationship with a girl is four months. Then now you see this girl now, I've been with her over three years. My fear is that I might push her away. She's as good as they come. She deserves the best.

15 Things could have been different

Sometimes even now I can't quite fathom how it happened to me. You would never have thought Danny Muir would have got beat up in a night club and be in a wheelchair and blah, blah – all them negative things. That's what I can't get over: the way it happened, d'you know? That was '98, we're nearly in 2014. I haven't come to terms with it even now. At times you think: 'ah, if this would've happened things could have been different.'

If I didn't have my injury I would be the same person. Or I'd be in prison or I'd be dead. I would never in a million years – If my life wouldn't have changed how it changed I would never have changed my life.

I mostly tend not to talk about it, d'you know what I mean? So when you talk about it and it brings up the emotion it's difficult. Before, I never had no emotion. I weren't an emotional person one bit. You see now, like, say my girlfriend, she's telling me a story, I start crying! Know what I mean? I think, for fuck's sake! I watch Jeremy Kyle and I get all upset over that. Bloody hell. I've got a heart now. I didn't really have a heart before, I don't think. It was there I suppose. Now I'm really, like, caring and things like that – a bit sensitive. But then other times I can laugh at something you shouldn't laugh at. I don't know.

16 I just want my right leg back

My hopes for the future, I think they're changing by the minute. Honestly I would love to get full time employment. Will that happen, realistically? Without a great deal of support I don't think that will happen because I drive them girls nuts, Helen and Kerry, the fundraisers where I volunteer. It's not something they can tell me to do and I can just get on and do it, so I constantly have to ask them to make sure I'm doing the right thing. And they've got their things to do so if they've got to keep helping me it's got to be taking them longer to do what they do. So they must be thinking 'fucking hell, let's take annual leave when he's in!' They are good with me but I can see at times they do get frustrated. They try and hold it back but I can just tell – d'you know what I mean?

If I got a job, in turn I could then get a mortgage, get my own house. Realistically, without a job I'm not getting a mortgage. I would love to have children with my girlfriend. But again, honestly? Me dealing with a baby? Constantly crying and her being hormonal. I think it might be too much for me. It breaks my heart to say that.

My other big goal was – I've always said this – I want to run the marathon. I'll be honest now, I don't think it's going to happen and it guts me to say that because I've tried so hard over the years! I honestly don't think it's going to happen because I've now got another problem on the good side of my body. I had the keyhole surgery, I had steroid injections, I had ultrasound, I had an MRI [18] scan – there was nothing! I've been to see my physio, I went to see my consultant, and they've both said 'you're over-compensating, your left-sided weakness is too much and your right's doing all the work.' A few months ago, when I was with my girlfriend, I went, "know what babe? You want me to tell you the truth about me running the marathon? I couldn't give two fucks, you know what I'd like?" – sorry about the swearing – "you know what I'd like? I'd like to have my right leg back. I'm just content in having that. Just so it feels normal."

Initially my memory was terrible. I wouldn't have been able to remember talking to you. If I left this room, say, five, ten minutes later I wouldn't even remember you. But over the course of time I was told to use a diary, everything I done, everything I do, write it down. It's very good my memory, right? But a lot of it is through a routine, I do a routine. I've tried to get out of that routine, so I can mix and match things, so my memory gets even better.

My girlfriend's more laid back than me. It's good that she's understanding because she gets pissed off cause I'm so organised. If you're supposed to do something and you think 'stuff that, do it later,' there's a chance you'll forget. This is room for error. So, you see my philosophy? Why not just do it? That's what I say. So when she says something to me I say 'why don't you do it now?' D'you know what I mean? It ain't because I want to be selfish and want things my own way, it's cause I want to remember. That's one thing that triggers my depression: when I forget. Drives me absolutely crackers.

If you've got cancer or something, there's treatment that can maybe help that. Touch wood you never get that, you know what I mean, it's not nice. You have a head injury, what treatment you going to get that can maybe cure that? There ain't fuck all. Other parts of my brain might have learnt new skills. I am changing all the time – changing for the better. But I've got to live with that damaged part in my head, as simple as that. I've got to live with that till the day I die.

People take so much for granted. Don't take it for granted, man. Make it precious, what you've got.

17 "I'd love to be like you"

This isn't an autobiography of being a hard man. Knowing what I know now, I wish I'd never had that life. But then, what life would I have had? I'm from the East End, I'm from the inner city. When you're from inner London you just want to be the big I am. Because what are your chances of being Bill Gates or being Donald Trump? Or being David Cameron? You haven't got a chance in hell.

Now I know if you want to be something, aim for it and I tell you what, you fall a little bit short, you still succeed. I look at the world now and I see lots of groups of different people. The world's massive. Firefighters have got a type of friend. Teachers have got a type of friend. Lawyers have got a type of friend. In all my years I never associated with them. Through Headway I get to associate with them. I feel out of my depth if I'm brutally honest.

You see, I was in this bubble. I just thought violence, drugs – that's the group to be associated with. I thought it was my world and that's it. I was ignorant. I thought it was all just me – my people – and where I was going.

I'm still volunteering at Headway. I'm helping with the family support groups. When we started off there were about six people. We've now got up to twenty people sometimes. You've got carers and people who've got the injury. Sometimes I've chaired the meeting if Beth, the staff member, isn't there. That gives me great joy, just to do that.

I'm also volunteering with the Young People's Group [19]. They love me you know, just muck around and have a game of pool. They ask me questions and things like that. One of them said, "I'd love to be like you". There's another young boy and because I encouraged him so much, he's training to do the Paralympics. For me I'd love to do that but it's too late. But you see for these younger people I'd love to give them encouragement, inspiration.

In a sense I would say that my childhood has moulded me into the person I am. I'm very streetwise. Even though I've had the injury it would take a lot to pull a fast one on me. Now, I've got confidence but I'm not overconfident. Sometimes when I've had a drink I get confident and I don't like it. Because I can get in trouble. I forget everything. I get a bravado and it's not nice. When I think about my past it's spinetingling.

18 Never again

My mum done the best thing ever by not letting them turn off the life support machine, right? But you see what I told her? Don't ever fucking do that again! Now that I'm alive, alright we'll live with it, I'll stick with it. But if anything tragic like this ever happens again, please mum, please, I know you want your boy here but don't, please, he's got to go, a geezer needs to be put to rest!


Letters sent by Danny to his physiotherapist, Jo, from prison (2002/03)


Copyright © 'Danny Muir'/Headway East London 2014

  • [1]. ICF West Ham: Inter City Firm West Ham – an organised football hooligan ‘firm’ active during the 70s, 80s and early 90s Return to text
  • [2]. YOI: Young Offenders’ Institution Return to text
  • [3]. Basic living: At the time of Danny's sentence there were three 'privilege levels' in UK prisons and YOIs: basic, standard and enhanced. Standard and enhanced level prisoners may be eligible for higher rates of pay and cash allowances, more frequent visits and other privileges such as in-cell television. In 2013 the UK government announced the introduction of an 'entry' level where privileges are restricted further Return to text
  • [4]. Yardie: slang term for a Jamaican, possibly with criminal associations Return to text
  • [5]. RNRU: Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit Return to text
  • [6]. 3 out of 15 is the lowest possible score on the Glasgow Coma Scale Return to text
  • [7]. Fixed dilated pupils: abnormal pupillary reflex can be a sign of brain stem dysfunction and is one indicator used in assessment of coma Return to text
  • [8]. Subdural haemorrhage (SDH): a bleed in between two of the major membranes surrounding the brain – the dura mater and the arachnoid membrane Return to text
  • [9]. Mid-line shift: the brain being pushed abnormally to one side by the presence of blood or other 'space occupying lesion' within the cranium Return to text
  • [10]. Craniotomy: removal of the upper frontal portion of the skull Return to text
  • [11]. Quadraparesis: weakness in both arms and legs Return to text
  • [12]. Upgoing plantars: in healthy adults, the plantar reflex causes the foot to curl downwards when stimulated with a blunt instrument. Upgoing plantars are taken as a sign of nervous system disorder Return to text
  • [13]. Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy: a feeding tube inserted into the stomach through the abdominal wall, used where a patient is not taking food orally Return to text
  • [14]. Tracheostomy: a tube inserted into the base of the throat to assist breathing in a comatose patient Return to text
  • [15]. Botulinum injections: botulinum toxin interferes with local nerve activity that controls muscles and is used clinically to reduce tone and increase flexibility Return to text
  • [16]. Wellingborough: HM Prison Wellingborough, Northamptonshire Return to text
  • [17]. Board of Visitors: also known as the Independent Monitoring Board: a group of volunteers from the local area of a prison, responsible for monitoring standards and prisoner welfare Return to text
  • [18]. MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging Return to text
  • [19]. Young People's Group: a service for people aged between 16 and 30 living with a brain injury, run by Headway East London Return to text