My name is John Cassells. I’m 54 years old and Tullamore is my hometown. I had a stroke in 2017 and I have aphasia
When I had my brain injury, my life changed enormously. When I woke up from the stroke, I was unable to talk or walk. My balance was all over the place and I kept having falls. I couldn’t use my left hand or left leg. I couldn’t dress myself. I couldn’t figure out buttons or shoelaces. I had been self-employed as a panel beater, but that all changed too. I still find it hard to give anything my undivided attention. It’s getting better all the time, but I’m not out of the woods yet.
From hospital to nursing home
After my stroke I spent about 9 months in a hospital, and then went straight to a nursing home. I lived there for 3 or 4 years. I was only 49. At the time I felt completely lost. I’m a worrier. I was worried about not being able to talk, and not being heard. I was worried that I didn’t have a role or a meaning after my brain injury, because I couldn’t talk. In the nursing home I didn’t have the opportunity to practice talking. Everything is done for you. I couldn’t even think. I felt forgotten about. One of my biggest fears was that I would be left there.
The Road To Recovery
For me, rehabilitation was a stepping stone. A transitional bed became available in Teach Fáilte, one of the houses run by Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABII), and I moved there from the nursing home. That helped me a lot. In rehab I had a chance to talk about my brain injury. My confidence grew. I learned cooking and life skills, like how to do my shopping, and I had a lot of Speech and Language Therapy.
I had inherited my family home in Tullamore and I wanted to move back there, but it was declared non habitable. Because of my stroke, I couldn’t plan for the changes needed to make my move home happen. I couldn’t talk to the builders or even tell them the colours that should be on the walls. ABII helped me through all of that. I had a Rehabilitation Assistant, Rena; a Social Worker, Maria; and an advocate. They helped me to apply for grants and adapt my house to get it ready for me to return home. Only for them, I’d still be stuck in the nursing home.
Independence has made me a stronger man
At home, I started to use a whiteboard to help structure my day and routine. I didn’t want that at the beginning, but I saw how it worked for me. I needed the reminders of what’s going on: to remember breakfast, lunch and dinner; when to take my medication; when to practice my physio exercises for my hand; when to go my rehab support groups and my work shifts.
Through Acquired Brain Injury Ireland I also had access to an Occupational Therapist, Grace, who helped me a lot to get back to work. McDonald’s offered me a job. I’m working there now part-time, two hours a day and three days a week, sorting boxes, cleaning up litter, washing the windows, and other tasks. I’m living at home, I’m travelling independently – I was able to get the train to Galway at the weekend. Life is good!
“If we could do for others what we’ve done for John, it would be life-changing.”
- Grace, Occupational Therapist
I usually go out for a walk every day, watch television, go out around the town. I go to the library. I like to watch videos there because I have difficulty reading, though that’s improving too. I feel pride in my own home. I’ve made big lifestyle changes. I don’t drink anymore and I’ve changed my choice of friends. My life has been turned around and it’s getting better all the time. Having my independence back has made me a stronger man.
For others living with a brain injury in nursing homes, I’d like to tell them to have hope. I’d like people to understand that every brain injury is different and it takes time to recover, but it does improve all the time. So much has changed for me from those years in the nursing home to where I am today, living in my own house. Rehabilitation has helped me to get my life back.
19,000 people in Ireland acquire a brain injury ever year. Many have no access to rehabilitation, simply because of where they live. Rehabilitation is not a lottery. It’s a human right. Support the Right to Rehab.