Story of a Head Injury

Driving, in very snowy conditions, to the GP, to hear results of a blood test, I was suddenly attacked by a noise. It sounded like a wide rusty band around my head and was creaking as it tightened and tightened. I stopped!

I sat in the car (almost knowing what had happened). I tried moving hands, arms, legs and feet. They all worked so I drove on to the Surgery. I parked the car and got out. I was immediately violently sick. Entering the Surgery I said I would be in the toilet. Eventually I saw the GP who said he thought I`d had a bleed. I never did get the results I went for!

An ambulance took me to hospital. Reading of scans proved to be worthless, but a week later I was unable to move my head. Panic in the ward because they thought I had meningitis! A lumber puncture proved (what the reading of the scan didn`t) that I had a Sub-arachnoid Haemorrhage. Off to Oxford.

Six months, and three brain operations later, I was out in the real world again.  

At first I had great difficulty in distinguishing what had happened and what was a “real” memory and what was an “unreal” memory. One of the Junior Registrars at Oxford was French. He spoke a lot to me and because of his accent , I was convinced that I had been in Roscoff Hospital in Brittany. We`d been there the previous summer too. My children assured me that I`d been in England all the time but even now that “unreal” memory remains as real as ever. I had to teach myself skills to deal with short term memory loss and put structure into my days.

Concentration was bad and I made myself sit with crossword puzzles and gradually extend the time I did it. TV programmes of 30 minutes were impossible. It was about three years before I dared go to the cinema!

Brain operations mean loss of taste and smell. During the stay in hospital I had a period of double vision and nausea and lost my appetite. At home I found I could taste a very hot chilli and it became a favourite meal. Years later I developed gastric problems!

Emotions varied. Some days I was hyperactive and others I just wanted to stay under the duvet. However as an animal lover with a dog and three cats I had to get up to give food and care. Anger was a predominant emotion and that year I had the best dug garden in the area.

The wide variations of mood sent me back to hospital with depression. It was a relief to have an explanation for how I was feeling. The drugs prescribed and the therapy treatment soon made me feel more normal again. I went home and continued with therapy for several years.

Hindsight is wonderful! I felt normal and so made the decision to return to teaching six months after my last operation. Within 8 weeks I knew that I could no longer teach a group of 30+ children aged 6/7. I had been in touch with my union throughout and with their advice asked for early retirement on health grounds. This was granted.

Back to square one. I now had to build a life to fulfil me. Having contacted the Volunteering Agencies I was working with families under stress with young children. One day I saw an advert for a Co-ordinator for Headway. I rang to find out more. I didn`t want the job but volunteered to help. I found that I had real empathy with the clients because I had been there too. It made me realise how lucky I had been to have no obvious difficulties. Eighteen years later I am still a volunteer.

I was also able to build up a tutoring line for young children. This also stopped the children craving I had. I had been working with/ having my own children for 30 years!

All these things gave me stability and confidence to face the future.

Consultants say that there can be no improvements after about 5 years. I have talked with one to say that in my case 8 years was the case. Recently a client (who had lost speech) used words I have never heard him use in 18 years. So much for the consultant`s words of “encouragement”.

So imagine a life being lived normally one moment and everything changing in a few minutes. There are many similar stories from people with head injuries but I think they will all agree that life can NEVER return to its former state.