Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week
Action for Brain Injury Week is an initiative of charity Headway, running from 14 to 18 May 2012. This year, the focus is on the role of carers in looking after people with brain injuries and the extent to which they are often alone and unsupported at a time of great stress.
Headway is a national charity which provides help and support to people affected by brain injury. It runs a network of local groups and branches throughout the UK, offering rehabilitation programmes, carer support, social re-integration, community outreach and respite care.
Withy King is holding free drop in clinics throughout Action for Brain Injury Week from 9am to 5pm. Those living with the effects of brain injuries and their families are invited to visit Withy King’s offices Bath, Swindon and Oxford for a free, confidential meeting with a personal injury or clinical negligence solicitor. For further information about the drop-in advice clinics, please contact Withy King on freephone 0800 923 2073.
The families of three of Withy King’s clients have spoken out about their experiences as carers in support of Action for Brain Injury Week.
Case Study: The Davies Family
Miss Davies’ son Cayden has cerebral palsy as a result of a negligent delay in delivering him by four hours. Cayden was not breathing when he was delivered and it took medical staff approximately 15 minutes to resuscitate him. As a result of this, Cayden has permanent brain damage and associated physical disabilities affecting his left side as well as seizures, visual problems and a very small head.
Miss Davies said: “When I found out Cayden had brain damage, I was in shock. The news didn’t sink in – it was too hard to believe. Our future suddenly seemed so uncertain and I didn’t know what to expect.
“Cayden’s condition changed my life from the very start. Whilst most mothers can be sure that their children will progress to the next stage of development, I was watching Cayden like a hawk. All the time I was thinking: will he be able to walk or talk? When he couldn’t do something I would get very upset.”
Caring for Cayden full time meant Miss Davies wasn’t able to return to work: “In the beginning especially there were lots of doctor’s and hospital appointments. Cayden still receives a lot of treatment – he has physiotherapy and an occupational therapist comes to our house and visits Cayden’s playschool. At playschool, Cayden gets one on one support because he’s partially sighted and has mobility difficulties.
“Cayden’s disabilities aren’t very visible, and it’s sometimes hard for people to understand that he’s disabled. People are sometimes less tolerant than they should be. I also want to give Cayden the independence to go off by himself and play with other children in the park, but I can’t. I have to watch him all the time and it doesn’t feel fair to him.
“At the moment, it’s his behavioural problems that cause me the most concern. He can’t express how he’s feeling very well so he gets very frustrated. It’s hard to watch. But on the other hand, I only have to look at Cayden, at what a little miracle he is, and I feel better.
“His doctors never expected him to be walking and talking, but he is. I’m just so thankful that he’s alive and well, that he’s here with me. We can get through anything together. I’m hoping he’ll start at a mainstream primary school in September. He’ll need one to one support there too and that depends on funding. We’ll see how he gets on there – if he can’t cope we’ll rethink and look into a special needs school for him.”
Case Study: The Dewis Family
Rachel Dewis, from Chalford Hill, whose son Jacob has cerebral palsy as a result of a negligent delay in delivering him by forceps, has been her son’s main carer for the past 19 years. Jake’s condition has manifested itself in a variety of complex needs including deterioration of fine and gross motor abilities, epilepsy and learning difficulties.
Rachel said: “I felt overwhelmed when I found out how ill Jake was. I just felt so powerless; I wanted to protect him but there was nothing I could do. One of the hardest things about caring for someone with a brain injury is the extent to which your life can change. You’re confronted with new challenges all the time and you just have to adapt.
“I moved Jake seventy miles away from my family so he could attend a special school in Gloucestershire. At the time it was only one of three schools in the UK that used a specific type of pioneering physio called ‘conductive education’ from the PETO institute. This branch of physiotherapy was particularly successful with individuals who have cerebral palsy. I wanted him to have the best possible chance in life.
“It can be heartbreaking to see your child reach a milestone, such as learning to walk, and then go backwards. You assume your child will progress to a certain point and then maintain that quality of life, but children with cerebral palsy can lose the ability to walk as they get older. Jake got bigger and taller and was less able to co-ordinate and balance effectively. His muscles, ligaments and tendons tightened up, severely reducing his overall mobility and his ability to stand upright and walk unaided.
“It’s hard but you have to try not to sacrifice your life, the more you hold on to your own identity – the more you remember who you are – the better you’ll be as a carer. Taking time for yourself as a carer, however small, is very important.
“To other parents who have just found out their child has a brain injury, I would say, make full use of the support channels available. Take your child to mainstream and specialist groups for young people – your child may sometimes be the most disabled and sometimes the least, but it will always be helpful in some way or another. If they’re getting support, they’re happier.”
Case Study: The Watson Family
Kevin Watson suffered a brain injury as a result of an unprovoked attack by three youths in October 2007 when he was 30 years old. He was punched in the face and fell to the ground, hitting his head when he landed. On admission to hospital, Kevin required emergency surgery and then spent the next seven weeks in a coma. When he woke up, he was unable to move or communicate with his family.
Speaking about his family’s experiences coping with the severity of Kevin’s brain injury, David said: “When we found out the extent of Kevin’s head injuries, we were devastated. I just couldn’t believe that Kevin’s life had changed so irreversibly. My wife Carol and I felt completely helpless.
“Kevin was admitted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, which is about an hour away from where we live. Carol made the journey every afternoon, organising her working hours around visiting him. She clocked up a few thousand miles during that time. I’m self-employed and couldn’t take much time off in the day but I drove up whenever I could to see him.”
Just when Kevin seemed to be improving, he contracted MRSA and slipped back into a coma. He was transferred to the Royal Bath Mineral Hospital to begin what turned out to be a slow recovery. From there, Kevin was transferred to a neuro-rehabilitation centre, Glenside Manor in Wiltshire, where he received intensive rehabilitation in all areas including physiotherapy, psychology, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.
“Kevin’s injury affected us as a family in different ways. My son Stephen was about to start Commando Training with the Marines, but was told he couldn’t while his brother was so ill. My other son Peter and daughter Jennifer were also affected by the level of stress and anxiety we were all experiencing. Something like this overwhelms a family; no one escapes unscathed.
“To other parents who have recently found out their child has a brain injury, I would say, find something that stimulates your child. I used to read Terry Pratchett novels to Kevin while he was in hospital, even if he was asleep. Something registered with him and the continuity of it really helped I think.”
Kevin has been living independently in Trowbridge since January 2011 with daily support from a range of carers.
Withy King and Action for Brain Injury Week
Paul Rumley, partner and clinical negligence specialist at Withy King said: “Brain injury can occur as a result of medical treatment which goes wrong. A happy occasion, such as the birth of a child, can so easily become something far more challenging in which case parents have to provide significantly more help and support than they otherwise would have done. This restricts them in what they can do. Having a brain damaged relative affects the whole family.
“Seeking compensation enables those living with the effects of brain injuries to buy the extra aids and care they need and so help them to become the best they are capable of being, with much more independence. This allows pressure to be taken off the relatives, so that they can enjoy a family.”
Stuart Brazington, partner and personal injury specialist at Withy King, added: “Given the Government’s intention to reduce social care services and DWP benefits, there has never been a more important time for brain injury sufferers to seek compensation to secure their future and ensure the right level of support is provided.”
For further information on Action for Brain Injury Week visit www.headway.org.uk