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Life after a brain injury

“I don’t really remember what happened, I just remember lying in bed and hearing my mum tell me I was involved in a road traffic accident.”

Holly is one of thousands of people who sustain a brain injury every year in the UK. While most people who experience a brain injury are able to quickly return to their daily lives there are some for whom unfortunately life will never be the same again.

Our brains are fragile and vulnerable to all sorts of injury. Although brain tissue can be damaged by a number of things like infections, strokes, tumours, any injury to the brain from an external force can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) also known as an intracranial injury is caused by a trauma to the head. Road traffic accidents, slips and trips and accidents at work or at home are a common cause of this type of brain injury as are medical negligence and acts of violence.

The effects of a TBI can be wide ranging and often depends on whether the TBI is classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Symptoms of mild TBI can include headaches; confusion; dizziness; ringing in the ears; trouble with memory, concentration, attention; mood changes and fatigue. There may or may not be a period of unconsciousness. Often the symptoms are subtle and can be missed.

Symptoms of moderate to severe TBI will include the above but may also include loss of consciousness ranging from several minutes to hours; persistent headache or headache that worsens; repeated vomiting or nausea; convulsions or seizures; dilation of one or both pupils; clear fluids draining from the nose or ear; slurred speech; weakness or numbness in the arms or legs; increased confusion; restlessness with poor memory, concentration; personality changes; poor planning and lack of insight.

To determine the severity of a TBI, the most widely used clinical criteria are the Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) and the Post Traumatic Amnesia (PTA). The GCS ranges from 15/15 (normal level of consciousness) to 3/15 (deepest coma). The PTA is the time from the accident until the patient starts forming consistent, consecutive memories.

Coping with a traumatic brain injury

While a TBI can be a life-changing event, the good news is that TBIs are treatable. Early medical intervention and rehabilitation is crucial to the likely recoverability for a brain injured person and it is important that this takes place within a specialist neurological centre. With the right help, people with TBI can improve the way their brain functions, and they can often reclaim parts of their lives that were affected by the injury.

Another of my clients, Michael suffered brain damage and sever injuries when he was knocked down by a speeding motorist. My first thoughts on meeting Michael and his parents were focussed on engaging the right team of specialists to establish a rehabilitation programme, with a Case Manager, to support Michael. Neuropsychologists; speech and language therapists; occupational therapists and physiotherapists were appointed as was a support worker also known as a “buddy” who offered Michael companionship. As a result of Michael’s brain injury he had lost many of his friends and felt very isolated. His “buddy” ensured Michael re engaged with the community and gave Michael a purpose and direction in life.

Michael’s parents who had tirelessly supported him following the accident were given support with a care package allowing them to regain their role as parents and not carers. With a substantial compensation award Michael’s future needs for the rest of his life were met giving peace of mind to the family.

Choosing the right solicitor

Brain injury is a complex injury. When caused by someone else’s negligence, both specialist medical care and legal representation are essential. Surviving a brain injury brings unique challenges for each individual and working fast and collaboratively to achieve the best possible outcomes, both medically and financially are critical.