"I was with friends, doing a cycle challenge. I fell from my bike smashing my helmet, arm and head, into a road kerbside at over 30 mph. I was airlifted from the scene and taken to critical care (it would take a week to be downgraded to intensive care). I was induced into a coma at the site after two epileptic seizures, bleeding on the brain, breaking my arm in 13 places and swallowing my tongue. I would be in a coma for a month and hospital for nearly five months.
In hospital I had 10 hours a week of physio learning how to walk again. Sometimes all I did was scream but it did help. I did hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy for eight months which taught me how not to speak like an over excited squeaky five year old. I needed to be lifted by an electric chair into a bath for nearly three months. Even after that putting belts on trousers or tying laces on shoes was impossible and I needed to be helped with most things. Facing all this after a traumatic brain injury, a coma, amnesia and a broken shoulder was hard.
When I first left hospital and moved back home I wanted to go back to work. I just thought my problem was my arm hurting so I didn't really understand the challenges I would face. Things like, walking, crowds, cooking, keeping appointments, dealing with money, needing two people to help me use stairs, problems remembering pin numbers or passwords, getting around without a driving licence for two years, and failing an eye test all caused massive problems! Although I had left hospital I was still an outpatient and had not yet achieved full recovery.
Then I discovered the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and started doing some research for their new project. I went to different branches and met great people who talked about lots of different things. I even managed to make it onto one of their international trips after a few months. Looking back the medical people involved must have been surprised at the progress. At first my life had been put on five minutes’ notice and my family told to say goodbye to me. I just kept going though. No compromise. No negotiation. I used to tell myself, “Just do whatever it takes, keep going”. There were setbacks, trips and falls but the whole time I had my eye on the prize of discharge as an outpatient.
With the WEA I went from researching, to helping plan an international trip, to going on it, then I even did presentations for different branches about it all. It was real fun, especially when compared to the challenge of learning to walk again. Most importantly though, I got shown where the WEA volunteer biscuits were kept! After four months of volunteering, the WEA gave a three page report of my involvement to my occupational therapist who I had been seeing for two years. A week later I got discharged from occupational therapy - I was getting close now!
Two months later I introduced my WEA co-ordinator to my NHS consultant. The WEA co-ordinator and my consultant quickly became on a first name basis and emailed each other about my progress. I was delighted that the WEA could give my consultant detailed updates of how I was doing - I hope the biscuits were not discussed though. So projects with WEA finished and new areas of involvement with WEA began to emerge. I just kept going, doing whatever I had to do now I was on the home straight.
Then in the Summer it happened. I did it. 35 months after my accident I got discharged as an outpatient and the WEA helped me. The day after I went to my old ward with cakes and cards. The medical staff recognised me and called me by my name - oh wow. I punched the air with my arm that I’d broken and said “I did it, I got discharged”. They smiled. And that is my story of victory - for me, for the medical staff and for the WEA.
Everyone has problems at different levels; it could be life, employment, society or an accident. Accept the changes and adapt – then it is just a change you are adapting to and you will, gradually. No matter what your issues, stay positive, focused, motivated, determined, honest, adaptable and reflective and with help, support, time and patience you will make progress and get better. You will be different to the person you were before; your job is to accept it and adapt. Your recovery, whatever the issue is just that… yours! So do whatever you have to do and Good luck!"