Portrait: Tobias

Tobias is a brain injury survivor who had to learn to walk, eat and talk again after suffering a devastating aneurysm. He spoke of the “moving” moment he crossed the finish line after taking part in SameYou’s Cycle Ibiza challenge.  

Tobias Hassels, 43, suffered complications after the brain injury in 2011, but signed up to the 120km endurance event on the island of Ibiza in April to raise money for SameYou, saying he was drawn to the charity’s focus on recovery after brain injury. 

The chef and musician, who is a vocalist and plays the clarinet, keyboard and drums, said he thought the challenge would be a good chance to reconnect with his injury and he would be able to tell his story publicly for the first time as he fundraised for the event. 

But he added that it became a special, defining moment as he finished the ride, which was his first sports event after suffering the brain injury. 

He said: “I just thought ‘wow’, I can’t believe I. When I got to the final metres going to the area where everyone had been waiting for us, I couldn’t really celebrate that at that moment as I was quite moved, in a good way.  

“I didn’t cycle a lot, or at all, after my aneurysm and I thought this would be a really good way to also reconnect with my injury and my own story. I didn’t know what to expect from the hills, going up the hills, going down them, and I had a completely different bike than I used to ride. I’m not used to a road bike so the first day I was getting used to it and I got more and more confident.  

“Cycle Ibiza made me fit again, the training was really good. It was in wintertime, but I was getting much fitter and being able to ride and to cycle and to go into the mountains, it was really a great experience, so I benefited from it in more than one way. 

 “I would love to take part in another challenge. It was really such a magical weekend, and it was wonderful how empathetic and wonderful everyone was towards each other.”  

Tobias lives with partner Melanie and dog Lu, a Miniature Schnauzer, just outside Hamburg in Germany. 

He said the aneurysm was sudden, with only a few small signs including extreme changes to his emotions. 

He added: “It came out of nothing. There might have been some signs there, like being extremely emotional but also angry, but I did not know what it was.  

“It just ruptured all of a sudden and my partner, Melanie, she was trying to convince me to call the ambulance, but she did it all on her own because I was saying, “let’s wait a moment”. But she was calling the ambulance, which was so important, so if someone goes unconscious, don’t listen to the person, call the ambulance. It’s a lifesaving step. 

“I was having epileptic seizures on the way to the hospital and then they found out it was a brain haemorrhage and taken to a special clinic in Berlin, and I had an operation the next day.  

“I had to relearn everything, walking, talking, eating. For the immediate care, it was brilliant. Really, really good. I had good rehabilitation but also for me, with the German health system, I had my neurologist, but there was no one I could talk to about mental health or psychological help. 

“I was never silent about my brain injury, but I also did not actively do something publicly, but because of Cycle Ibiza I had to do that as I had to get the funds. I was able, for the first time, able to tell my story in a public way. And that was really, really good and I got huge feedback from many different people, and it was really important.  

“It meant I was also able to tell people about the background of brain injury and SameYou. When they heard more about my story they realised how many people have brain injuries. 

“As a clarinet player, and then signing up to Cycle Ibiza and fundraising for it, I saw it that the challenge had also been a kind of performance for me too. So, I would say get involved in fundraising for SameYou and don’t be afraid to have an audience.” 

  • Help support our brain injury recovery efforts by joining SameYou at the Vitality London 10,000 run on September 24. For more information email [email protected] 
  • SameYou will soon be announcing its next fundraising challenge for 2024. Keep checking our social media platforms and our website for the details. 

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