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Seeing is believing: the unseen and unknown of brain injuries

Author Jack Martindale to appear at conference at York University on Thursday 23 April

Health professionals from across the country will gather at the University of York later this month to share knowledge and gain a greater understanding of brain injury in a wider context with a view to ultimately improving the lives of those affected and their support networks.

Eleven speakers will take to the stage at the one-day conference, including a Clinical Psychologist, Behavioural Optometrist, several professors and solicitors as well as representation from The Brain Injury Association, Headway. Jack Martindale, a graduate of the university and author of Battling a brain inury: the life that Jack built will also be in attendance and as well as signing copies of his book, he will be talking to visitors about his own traumatic brain injury.

The event, hosted by York-based Minster Law and the Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre, will be complemented by shadow puppetry performances from the Play of Light Theatre Co., all of which will seek the address the unseen and unknown of brain injuries.

Forty-five-year-old Ian is among the many people trying to create a greater understanding of brain injuries and their impact on families. Having suffered a brain injury following a road traffic accident, his mental and physical health were not the only things to be affected; his marriage and job were also casualties.

However just over five years on from the accident – which left Ian close to death – he is now living a semi-independent life with the  help of his mum and support workers, and owns the home that he shares with his son. His solicitor, Jonathan Bamforth, believes that part of the problem people with brain injuries face is the unseen and unknown nature of their injuries.

He said: “The interesting thing about Ian is that he is an absolutely classic case of someone with the remnants of a severe brain injury who presents very well. It is fair to say that Ian suffered injuries that are among the most severe that I have seen in a case where the client survived. He was close to death for a significant period of time.

“If you met him you would probably notice the fact that his eyes are slightly misaligned and that he has some modest scarring to his head, but other than that you would not think that he had a brain injury. He can hold a perfectly natural conversation about most day to day issues, but if you saw him for seven days on the trot you might have that same conversation with him each time.”

In the months after his return home it is sad to say that Ian’s relationship with his wife deteriorated culminating in a separation in late 2011 and, thereafter, a divorce which was finalised last year. He’s also unable to return to work as a pipe fitter due to issues with sequencing and following processes amongst others. However despite this, he is contented with the life that he has rebuilt.

Ian said: “The experience following my accident has been traumatic for my whole family, not just me, because it altered who I was in a lot of ways and I had to accept the realisation that I would never be the same person again. I feel lucky to have regained the life that I have and look forward to new possibilities and opportunities.”

Jack Martindale, who himself suffered a serious brain injury after a car crash left him on the brink of death, adds: “Suffice to say that a brain injury is not something that I’d wish upon my worst enemy – albeit the onus of choice is not something that is always granted to us. Thanks to tremendous family, friendship and legal support, I can confidently say that the day I resign myself to not being able to do something that I could before is the day I die.

“Events such as this are paramount in raising awareness of brain injuries, and encouraging knowledge sharing to help ensure that recovery from a brain injury becomes more commonplace.”

The event entitled: Brain Injury: The Unseen and Unknown, chaired by Jonathan Bamforth, will take place in The Berrick Saul Building at the University of York Heslington Campus on Thursday 23rd April from 12.00pm to 6.45pm. Attendance must be confirmed in advance by emailing RSVP@asthingsshouldbe.com/d/minster but there are a few places still remaining. For more information, please click here.