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Tom shares his life after brain injury


Tom shares his life after brain injury

23/08/2018. Wexford Clubhouse (for patients with Acquired Brain Injuries) at Drinagh, Wexford. Pictured are Sarah Kavanagh, Local Services Manager Tom Hayden and Róisín Fortune. Picture: Patrick BrownePicture taken by Patrick Browne.

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.