An “inspirational” woman whose son died of a brain injury has raised more than £30,000 for charity since the tragic incident.

Judy Tilbury, 83, from Hassocks, lost her son Mathew after he tried to break up a fight.

The 24-year-old was hit on the head with a baseball bat and sustained a severe brain injury.

"Mathew was an innocent bystander," said Judy. "It was just dreadful, and it affected our family so much because he was so young."

Although paramedics arrived and he was treated at the scene, Mathew never came out of the coma and sadly died nine days after the attack, leaving his loved ones devastated. Judy then suffered a heart attack.

The Argus: Judy's son Mathew was just 24 when he diedJudy's son Mathew was just 24 when he died (Image: Headway Sussex)

At the time, Judy heard about Headway Sussex, the local branch of the national brain injury charity, and started fundraising. 

"Although Mathew didn't go there, because he didn't survive for any treatment, I just support Headway in what they do," she said. 

That was in 1996, and in the years since then Judy has channelled her personal experience of loss to help others - despite also suffering a heart attack and battling cancer herself.

Now, she is up for a Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award.

The award will be presented by Headway at its awards ceremony on December 8 at the Landmark London hotel.

The Argus: Judy Tilbury, from Hassocks, has raised more than £30,000 for HeadwayJudy Tilbury, from Hassocks, has raised more than £30,000 for Headway (Image: Headway Sussex)

In 2010, Judy suffered another terrible loss. Her husband Roy developed dementia-like symptoms and after several months of tests and investigations, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. 

Sadly, Roy died just two weeks after his diagnosis. Having lost her husband, as well as her son, to a brain injury, Judy became even more determined to fundraise for Headway Sussex.

The Argus: Judy;s husband RoyJudy;s husband Roy (Image: Headway Sussex)

She even learned to swim at 70 and used her new-found love to raise further funds for the charity.

Judy actively fundraised until a couple of years ago, when she herself became unwell and was diagnosed with lung cancer.

After chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Judy's condition has fortunately stabilised, although she has to live with a residual cough and breathlessness. 

However, this hasn't deterred Judy and Headway Sussex remains very close to her heart, with Judy continuing to play a significant role in fundraising as a volunteer.

Having worked for decades as a dressmaker and curtain maker Judy has also used her remarkable talent to create beautiful handmade items, including embroidered Christmas decorations, all of which she has sold to raise further funds.

During the pandemic, Judy also sat at her sewing machine for many hours daily, making colourful facemasks. Demand was so high that she created over 5,000 and raised more than £8,000 from the masks alone.

Judy has been nominated for the Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award by a trustee at Headway Sussex, Michele Fleming.

"She is a truly dedicated supporter of Headway,” said Michele. “From the time of Mathew's death to the current day, Judy has worked tirelessly and selflessly to help raise funds for Headway Sussex in Mathew's and her beloved husband's memory. 

“Judy's fundraising has been incredible, and she has always enjoyed being part of the Headway Sussex family. She has never sought recognition for all she does. The decision to nominate her has come from our staff, trustees and service users at Headway Sussex.

“She deserves this award in recognition of the tremendous amount of work she has done to raise much-needed funds for us, as well as promoting the work of the charity to support more people living with brain injury and their families. 

"She fully understands the terrible impact of brain injury and knows only too well that many people need support. She recognises the valuable work that Headway Sussex does to provide that support and wants to help us to continue our work."

Judy said: “I'm absolutely amazed to be nominated for this national award. I just love helping people. All this is in memory of Mathew and my husband."