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Early last year, I got the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night. My brother-in-law was being blue lighted to hospital following an assault. My sister was beside herself, she wasn’t allowed to see him and was being drip fed information from the police and hospital staff and was in a state of absolute panic. She discovered his Glasgow Coma Score was 8 out of 15, indicating he was in a coma state.

She told me that my brother-in-law had been the victim of a ‘one punch’ unprovoked attack whilst on a night out. As a result, he was knocked unconscious and was bleeding heavily from his head. The police evacuated the bar for forensic investigation and we later discovered that those around him had assumed he had died.

Following scans at the hospital, he was discovered to have sustained a brain injury; a fractured skull and two bleeds on the brain (a subdural haematoma and a subarachnoid haemorrhage). The doctors told us that one of the bleeds was in the pre-frontal cortex and that he would most likely wake up with memory loss and a substantial change to his personality. My sister was terrified that he would wake up a stranger and forget their young daughter, with whom he has an incredibly strong bond. She was told that the recovery would be long and that he would likely be left with permanent cognitive impairment, personality change, and memory loss.

When he finally awoke, he was extremely confused and could remember nothing of the assault or several hours beforehand. His behaviour was completely uncharacteristic, he was disinhibited, rude, and angry and seemed to have no awareness of the situation or his behaviour. He seemed like a completely different person. Other patients on the ward had to close their curtains to avoid him. Information was constantly repeated but he was unable to retain anything. He struggled to convey what he was trying to say, forgot words, and came across almost like a drunk person. Prior to the incident, he was calm, relaxed, and extremely intelligent. Cognitive tests were carried out which confirmed cognitive impairment.

Upon his release home, he had severe headaches and hibernated to a dark room and demanded complete silence. Any type of noise was excruciating to him. He had sustained hearing loss and tinnitus. Having a 2-year-old and an energetic dog meant life was very difficult. His pain, anger, and fatigue continued, and he spent most days sleeping. He had to miss out on family gatherings, parties and other social activities. because he could not handle the noise or being around too many people. He became down, depressed, and anxious. His entire world changed.

He was unable to work and lost his routine, feeling helpless and useless. He struggled with fatigue and found it difficult to make decisions, multitask, and organise his time. He would overreact at the smallest things and take offence to jokes from friends, where non was intended. He became abrupt and rude, blurting out anything he was thinking, even when clearly inappropriate.

After around six months he began a phased return to work. Whilst this helped significantly with his depression, his fatigue was worse than ever. The effort involved in following simple email chains or attending meetings would take everything out of him. He struggles to concentrate and manage his team with confidence like he used to. He has to write things down and struggles if the topic changes. He particularly struggles with finding the right word in a conversation and becomes embarrassed when this happens. During his time off, a promotion passed by which he was unable to apply for, meaning an affect on his future because of this incident.

Unfortunately, NHS Neurology discharged him early on in his recovery, which meant he has had to face a lot of his problems without help. I suggested he attend a local brain injury charity ‘Second Chance Headway Centre’. They helped with brain training exercises and tasks to improve his cognitive function. He now reads daily,plays scrabble to help with his spelling and word finding, and has been supported to come to terms with his brain injury. He is also engaging in psychological therapy and regular exercise to give him the best chance of a return to his old self.

Whilst the road has been long, we are all thankful he is still with us and for now his recovery continues. If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury, just know that there is help and support out there and you’re not alone. Living with a brain injury can be challenging and day-to-day tasks can be difficult to complete, but early access to quality rehabilitation can help.

If you’re about to or are currently undergoing a brain injury claim with Minster Law, rest assured our brain injury specialists will get you the very best rehabilitation and support you’re entitled to with UK leading medical experts.

There are also several organisations and charities, such as Headway and Second Chance Headway Centre, which keep on top of the latest treatments and developments in brain injury and can provide all-important support to those who need it.

You can take a look at our head and brain injury service if you’d like to find out more.