As a 55 year old former chemistry & maths teacher at Malbank School in Nantwich, now an IT Consultant, I never imagined that my wife Alyson would have to teach me basic arithmetic & spelling, but that was the situation in October 2012. In August I had a bout of what I thought was 'man flu' but a week later I was undergoing the first of three operations in University Hospital of North Staffs (UHNS) to clear an abscess from my brain. I could not speak and was paralysed on my right side, unable to perform the most basic functions.
12 weeks later after encouragement from Alyson and our two sons, support from family and many friends, prayers from my church fellowship, and the strength of my faith, I left hospital in a wheelchair and able to speak again. The skill of the neurosurgeons, other health professionals, allied to the care of the nursing team also had a great deal to do with it. I will never be able to thank them enough.
I have always tried to have a positive outlook on life, and was determined to work hard at my recovery, but the nature of a brain injury is that it can affect your mental wellbeing enormously. In the early days I suffered confusion and although I could sort of understand some of what people were saying, I couldn't get the words out to answer them. This often resulted in bouts of swearing and anger — another symptom of the swelling on that part of the brain which controls inhibitions and social interaction.
On discharge from the rehab unit at The Heywood in Newcastle, I was given lots of appointments, the most useful of which turned out to be with the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) team at Cheshire & Wirral Partnership (CWP). The team member assigned to me, Beth Fisher, as well as giving lots of practical advice on how to manage my condition, get back into work and driving again, has been a constant support in my mental well-being and building confidence.
Beth's caring nature is such that along with other brain injury survivors, their carers and other professionals the charity Head Injured People (HIP) in Cheshire has been setup. HIP provides a range of activities for people with ABI to meet, socialise & share experiences. They are also a source of valuable information. The coffee mornings I now go to once a month are a constant source of encouragement to me and many others. It is great to be able to meet in a non-judgemental environment and support each other. The group is also open to that often forgotten group — the carers — people who have to live with us on a daily basis and who have to bear the brunt of any anger and frustration we feel.
I know recovery will be a journey for many years to come. I also know that organisations like HIP need our support and funding to build on the work they do. Thank you for taking the time and effort to read my story.