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Jan
24

Tom was an entrepreneur from a young age and set up his own business in precision engineering by the age of 18. Like many of us, Tom had no idea what life would throw at him. Then 12 years ago, while driving for business, he suffered a brain injury after another car ran into the back of his. The impact caused damage to his front lobe. The father of five had to give up work for 8 years and let his sons run the business. During that time he worked on managing his memory problems and fatigue. You’d think a life-changing accident like this might get you down… but not Tom. His positive outlook shines through.

How did your brain injury affect you?

My memory went quite bad. The accident affected my long and short term memories. I wouldn’t have a notion how to go to a shop in my own town or where the street would be even though I’ve lived in the town about 22 years. I was getting my daughters’ names mixed up with my sisters even though I knew who they were.

How did you work on your recovery?

I was lucky I had help. Acquired Brain Injury Ireland sent a rehabilitation assistant – David Scanlon – he’s a gem. He’s a gift from god to people like myself. He was very helpful. I had to learn to read and write again. I could only go at it for 15-20 mins and he would know when I was too fatigued to continue. He was coming to me twice a week. If I’d overdone it, I wouldn’t recover for the next bit. He helped me manage my fatigue and make progress. Dave was with me about 6 years. I’m well enough now to look after myself and find out things for myself. I was always independent and able to look after myself and keep my house tidy, it’s how I was brought up.

How did you cope with your brain injury?

We are where we are. If you’re not a good patient you’ve no hope of getting better. I kept a positive outlook. I feel that it worked. I didn’t get down. I never came down my stairs without grooming. I had to learn how to keep my balance again. I was sent to a sports therapist used by the Wexford hurling team when they’re injured because he would help them back to full strength. I was lucky as well that my speech was okay. I can drive to work now after I did a test to drive with NRH. I did everything I was asked to do.

How are you today?

I’ll probably never be the same as I was. But you don’t know. Mostly I feel back to myself. I’ve no problem now watching a TV programme but in the beginning, I wouldn’t have remembered what I watched. My memory at the moment is better than a lot of people I know. With a brain injury it’s the only injury you can have and not know. I’m back to a normal routine, I have a lovely lifestyle. I was on a couple of holidays. I had to learn and try very hard with my recovery. When you’re in a learning mode, where does it stop. You crank it up.

What would you say to someone else just diagnosed with a brain injury?

No.1 – you want to listen to the people who know what they’re talking about. My GP sent me to the best of the best. No such thing as saying I can’t do that. In America they’re talking about sending people to Mars… that billion miles is going to start with a single step and the same applies to a brain injury. It might be difficult to remember things and it’s easier to say, aw I can’t do that. But you can take that first step.

What difference did our service make to your life?

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland meant a lot to me. I’d hate to think where I’d be without them. There would be a hell of a void in my life if I’d had to turn down their invitation. If I hadn’t been able to work with David it would have been a disaster for me. I do still go along to the Wexford Clubhouse and thanks to Acquired Brain Injury Ireland I am officially an artist. There was no art when I was going to school, I’d never done it before. Every Christmas I choose a piece of my art and I go to the printer and I run off a couple of 100 cards and I give them out at Christmas time. After my car accident, I said this in the high court in Dublin- I told the judge I’m with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland and if you have somebody in my position you should recommend it to them because the management choose the staff carefully for their kindness.

If you are interested in accessing our services, talk to your GP or healthcare professional about making a referral. A consent form must also be completed and returned with the referral form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan
07

When I was only 15 years old I was sent for a scan on my sinus that turned out to be a brain tumour. I’d had blurry vision, morning headaches and facial pain and when I was diagnosed, they told me it was low grade. Five years later, doctors told me the tumour was getting bigger and that it would have to come out.

I wasn’t really taking it in.

Like any 20 year old, I was more concerned about my friend’s 21st birthday party. I didn’t really pay any heed to the seriousness of my situation – that I was going to have brain surgery. I remember I went in laughing to the anaesthetic room. But I was oblivious about what was ahead of me. When I woke up after surgery my left side was paralysed and I thought it was the anaesthetic wearing off. It’s still surreal to think that I was actually paralysed.

From wheelchair to walking

I left hospital in a wheelchair and started intensive physiotherapy programmes. Every day I did about 4 or 5 hours of physio. I think I was in survival mode because I never wanted to believe I couldn’t walk. I struggled to understand what had happened to me. If I couldn’t understand what I was going through, how could friends understand? I felt very alone and felt as though I didn’t have many people on the outside who understood.

I was in denial about my brain injury

After lots of physio, I managed to walk again but now I had a limp and left side weakness. Before my injury I loved cycling and I was keen to get back to it. But after my injury it was hard to accept that I needed to rest. I wouldn’t accept that I was different and I pushed myself very hard. It wasn’t until I did work experience in a Montessori School that it really hit me. I struggled with balance bending over young children and my concentration was really poor. When I had to do jigsaws with the children, I found them hard to do.

Sensory overload was a big thing

When all the children arrived in the mornings with all the noise and chaos, that was difficult for me. My brain was having to work harder to do normal things and I was absolutely fatigued. That was when I really came to accept that I had a brain injury.

New lease of life

I was a very sociable person before my brain injury but afterwards, I really lost my confidence. I didn’t want to leave the house. But now thanks to the Wexford Clubhouse with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, I have a new lease of life. I’ve rebuilt my confidence to get out and about on day trips with the clubhouse.  I even started aqua aerobics and it’s now one of my favourite things. I’ve started building connections with people and I’m able to do things that I never would have done.

I wouldn’t change a thing

Brain injury recovery is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you’ll ever do in your life. It has taught me to listen to my body. It has taught me acceptance. Every time I share my story, I am healing myself another bit more. To other young people like me, I say: “You have survived a brain injury, you are not defeated, wear your scars with pride, be proud.”

Roisin attends our Wexford Clubhouse where she sees her friends every week. She continues to work on managing fatigue and building personal connections that make a strong support network for the future. She also shared her story with the Irish Independent to help raise awareness of brain injury which is often invisible to many.

Read more about our day services here. Referrals can be made by a healthcare professional and must be submitted with a consent form.

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Jan
07

I don’t think anyone would sit down and have a chat with me today and know I had a brain injury. My injury was always invisible.

But to those who know me best, my struggles weren’t invisible.

Back in 2008, more than 10 years ago, I became very ill out of the blue. I was just 19 years old and it started with a jerk in my leg. This was the first sign of a seizure which put me in Portlaoise Hospital on and off for weeks. I suffered multiple seizures and was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. I was treated for many different neurological illnesses, but nothing worked. With every seizure, I was losing a part of myself and coming closer to death.

I even received the last rites twice.

Doctors were fast running out of options. As a last-ditch effort to save me, I was blindly treated for an auto immune triggered Encephalitis (brain swelling), all while in a medically induced coma. Eventually, with treatment I started to come back to life. But I was a shadow of the person I once was. I was seriously compromised. My vocabulary was non-existent, and the psychotic effects of the illness meant I was hallucinating a lot. Recovery was not going to be easy. I received intense speech and language therapy as well as occupational therapy at the NRH. I could express myself and do things for myself again. But I wasn’t ready to face the world as a 19-year-old woman.

My confidence was gone.

When I came home to Laois, I was lucky to get help and support with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland through their community keyworker, Sinead. My aim was to go back and pursue the second year of my degree. Sinead was someone I could talk to, who understood my confusion and frustration with my situation. My friends’ lives were moving on while I was struggling to keep control of mine. It helped more than anyone will ever know to have someone there who understood the ins and outs of my injury and the feelings that went along with it.

Having someone who understood me and my injury made all the difference

My ability to learn had changed too. Short term memory problems meant I had to change my approach to learning in order to get through college. Sinead helped me use different approaches to learning; the most helpful of which was mind-maps. I could approach learning visually and this tool helped me graduate from Maynooth with a 2:1 degree and saw me go on to pursue a Masters. My meetings with Sinead happened over the course of months leading up to my return to college. Without her support both psychologically and practically, I don’t think that return would have been possible.

I was so conscious of my speech for years after my brain injury and my confidence took a huge knock. I also struggled emotionally, and I suffered terribly with fatigue. I’d hit a wall and nothing would bring me back, only a long sleep. Simple things were overwhelming to me.

Over-catastrophizing was one of my favourite hobbies

The first day of my Masters, I missed my bus in Dublin and the tears came. A 22-year-old standing at a bus stop crying, thinking nothing worse could have happened, that my day was completely ruined and nothing could fix it. It was a small thing, but I remember how the anxiety that runs through you makes nothing else matter in that moment. After the brain injury, having the emotional capacity to deal with certain things was not there.

I wouldn’t be here without the support from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Brain injuries can be invisible and the stories and struggles behind them can be too. As a person living with an acquired brain injury, the support I received from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland was invaluable to me. In so many ways, if life deals you a brain injury, the odds are stacked against you, because the whole area is under-serviced. But Acquired Brain Injury Ireland has been helping people to get back their lives all over Ireland for so long. They have given a voice to a group of people who may be otherwise voiceless. I’m so thankful to have found a community of people who understand my story and who fight for other people like me.

www.abiireland.ie/donate

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