THIS year Brain Injury Awareness Week runs from 13 – 19 May 2013.
An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is a brain injury that is not present at birth, not an illness that has a progressive decline. The most common forms of ABI are Traumatic Brain Injury (injury that is as a result from a blow to the head, e.g. road accidents, falls, assault), Stroke, Infection (meningitis and encephalitis), Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), Tumour. Road traffic accidents are the largest cause of traumatic brain injury in the UK.
A nationwide survey commissioned by Headway and University of Exeter estimated that across the UK there are over 500,000 people of working age living with permanent disabilities as a result of a brain injury. Each year, around 1.4 million people attend hospitals in the UK following a brain injury.
Brain injury accounts for a third of traumatic deaths and a higher proportion of long-term disability. About half of deaths in people under 40 are due to brain injury. After a brain injury, a person may have physical, cognitive (thinking), emotional and behavioural problems.
As well as affecting the life of the person who has had the brain injury, it also impacts on the life of other family members. The nationwide survey commissioned by Headway and University of Exeter also found that 76% of people with brain injuries in the UK think of their brain injury as an invisible disability, while 48% believe that people avoid them because of their brain injury & 48% reported that they find it hard to tell others about their brain injury.
24-year old Andrew received his brain injury at work. He said: “I was doing demolition at the time and the only thing I demolished was myself! I fell through a cattle shed roof, 26 feet on to my head and that’s how I acquired my brain injury. From then on I have been on the road to recovery ever since my accident and it’s been a hard journey. I have met remarkable people along the way that make you want to do better –Community Brain Injury Team, Cedar Foundation and many more have helped me learn how to deal with everyday life.
“I couldn’t cope with crowds and everyday life was hard, and for someone who was a normal young lad who went to work, came home with a mountain to climb! Over time I have managed to live with all my difficulties and the people around you learn to cope because it affects everyone close to you just the same. They don’t feel your pain but they hurt just as much as you!
“It has not got easier, it’s just you learn to adapt with your difficulties and it’s not all bad, I am playing for Northern Ireland CP squad, and I am nearly a qualified barber. Having something severe as a brain injury doesn’t necessarily hold me back, it pushes me to do better. It is payment for the people that help me along the way and makes their jobs worthwhile because they open all the doors and I have to lead the way! It is important to remember to achieve all your goals in life and always have a back-up plan or even bigger goals to make the people around you proud!”
Within the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust area, the Community Brain Injury Teams for adults who have had a brain injury are based as follows: Lisburn & Down area – Thompson House Hospital, Lisburn (028) 9263 3189, North Down & Ards area – McQueen Home, Ards Hospital, Newtownards (028) 9151 1192. Referrals to the Brain Injury Service can be made through your GP.