Improving Life After Brain Injury

Joanne’s Story

At 1.45am on the morning of the 23rd January 2017 I woke my 19 year old son Joshua for him to go to work. I heard him leave home locking the door behind him and I then went back to sleep. At 2 minutes past 4.00 am my mobile phone rang. Half asleep I answered and a male voice asked me if I was Joshua’s Mum. He went on to tell me his name (which I can’t remember) and said he was a Staff Nurse from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Joshua had been involved in a car crash and asked us to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

When we arrived at Accident & Emergency we had to wait for what seemed an eternity (although it probably wasn’t). Joshua had been the passenger in a high impact car accident. He had sustained serious injuries including a fracture to his C5 (I hadn’t got a clue what that was – I now know it’s the 5th cervical vertebrae in his spine), he had a fractured scapula (again I didn’t know that was his shoulder blade), a deep scalp laceration and cuts to his face from the windscreen. At this point no one had mentioned any brain injury. We were told Joshua’s Glasgow Coma Scale had been 5 at the scene (again I didn’t have a clue what that meant) but my husband did.

Joshua had been the passenger in a car travelling at approx. 50 mph on a 30 mph road. The car had gone underneath a stationary 48 tonne lorry with the passenger side taking the impact. The driver escaped with minor injuries. It took fire-fighters 30 minutes to extract Joshua. I remember brushing glass off the sheet that was covering Joshua in hospital, which seems such a ridiculous thing to do now but I think I just needed to do something.

It was then time for the nursing staff to hand over. I heard the new staff nurse ask if the parents knew about the brain injury. We did now. The on call neurosurgeon was asked to see us and he very bruskly said that Joshua had sustained a bleed on his frontal temporal lobes. The next few days were a blur, I remember Joshua going to theatre for his scalp laceration to be cleaned and stitched (he was in theatre for 2 1/2 hours), I remember him being moved to a high dependency ward; the nurses were lovely and very attentive.

I can’t remember how many days after the accident it was but I saw leaflet in the family room for Headway Black Country. I called the number and spoke to Kerry, the Community Outreach Worker. She visited us on the ward shortly afterwards. That leaflet opened the door to Headway Black Country which supports us tremendously as a whole family. In turn it led us to our wonderful solicitor Phil Edwards and Dudley Brain Injury Service. Kerry contacted Joshua’s work place about his SSP. Most of all, for me, it opened the door to Headway Black Country’s Carers Support Group. I have got to meet other wonderful carers, including Jacqui whose son was also in a car accident, so I can relate to her. When I’m having a bad day I know the last Thursday of the month I’ll take 2 hours for me at this Group.

Life now, 10 months on, is different, Joshua desperately wants to return to work but he’s unable to. Sadly a lot of friends are no longer around, he’s lost a huge amount of independence, he has become a vulnerable 20 year old in every aspect of his life. His and our lives have changed forever, we’re grieving for the son we lost and trying to accept our new son. His personality has changed considerably. He has a like list and a not like list and if you’re on his not like list he will not talk to you, cooperate with etc. Joshua has no filter so he says it as he sees it, which can be sexual or racial comments. Our lives as a whole family have changed forever, my husband changed his job so he could work a flexible rota, I went from full time to part time work and our eldest son moved out.

I have returned to being Joshua’s mum (not Joanne) and I’ve had to become a more confident, stronger woman. Jacqui said at a recent carers meeting that we’re in a club that nobody wants to be part of and that sums up brain injury to a T.

Joanne

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