Stuart White, Facilitator

Never give up!

In 1996,  the day after my 13th birthday, I was hit by a car when I was on my bike. I went straight into a coma for nine days and was hospitalised for nearly two months. I had a fractured skull (just above my nose) going all the way  up and down my head to the top of my neck, and two black eyes the size of golf balls. As a result of the accident I lost so much memory that I was basically back to the age of a 4 or 5 year old. I couldn’t even remember the names of some of my family.

I remember being at the hospital and having my own room. It was right next to the main desk for the children’s ward. As you go into the room on the left was the television and video. Far left was the bed (going towards to the television) and next to it was a cupboard where I had my drinks and sweets. Funny what you can recall.

I had a huge problem with one of my legs because I couldn’t ‘lift it’ when I was walking. I couldn’t walk far, so I used a wheelchair.

I had to re-learn writing, reading, maths….everything. I had a big slur when I was talking. When I did talk, a lot of the time the words came out wrong (for example, to say “please can you pass me the salt” I would say something like “I want some milk”).

I found that others in the hospital (and outside too) tended to look at me and judged me without even knowing what I had been through.

I have a sister five years younger than me, and I would hit her and then ask, within the space of a minute, “”Why are you crying?”. She would then have to explain to me that I’d hit her, at which point I would then cry and ask, “Why would I do that? I didn’t do that!”

I have epilepsy now due to the accident but I consider myself lucky because I could have ended up a lot worse, in many different ways, as you can imagine.

I have progressed so far. I also consider that the accident happened for a reason and has made me a better person than the person I was before.

After so many years I am finally able to talk to pretty much anyone about what happened to me without crying. I did consider suicide once. When I was 13, I felt so bad because it was Christmas time and I had no money to get my family presents (of course I didn’t comprehend at the time that I didn’t need to).

I have never really had many friends because I have always been judged as an ‘outsider’ and ‘unwanted’ but I still carried on fighting. Now I have  friends and people accept me for me. I try and tell others that whatever happens, things DO improve.

In August 2013 I joined a group where I live to volunteer, who support people with head injuries. That group was Headway East Northants. I talked to the people there, shared stories , painted, taught basic computer skills, played games, visited places like bowling, karaoke etc and I found my ‘fire from inside me’ again.

In September the same year I was called into the office by the Services Manager. I must admit I was surprised and didn’t really know what she wanted. We sat down and started talking….. and then I was offered a job. I was (and still am) shocked, not just because I hadn’t been volunteering very long, but also because of how much positivity I received from her. I must have had the same from the clients and other staff and volunteers. Basically what I am trying to say is that it DOES improve and I want everyone else to stay strong.

I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends. I explained it all to my Mum when I got home and she burst into tears. She was so happy for me and said she is so proud of me.

I watched the film ‘The Crash Reel’. It is the first film that has made me cry. It’s about an accident that involved a traumatic brain injury. The film reminded me of myself in so many ways. Watching the coma part, in a wheelchair, struggling to walk long distances (when I mean long, I mean longer than five minutes).

I wouldn’t have been able reach this point without my family and I can’t thank them enough for it. I have always wanted to give something back to them. I know I can’t, but I also know that I haven’t got to …it’s just something that is always in my mind. My parents visited me every single day whilst I was in hospital. Thier pain is something I can’t get out of my mind. I remember once that I thought they didn’t want to see me, because I called them and there was no answer. They turned up one minute later and I cried.

It hasn’t been long since I’ve been willing to open up fully about all of this. It does make me sad because 17 years of not opening up about it all, and then all of it coming out at once,  it’s a lot,  but I know it’s the right time to open up and help as many people as possible.

Thank you for reading this and I hope it helps. Never give up, even though it’s so hard, because I assure you that your son, daughter, family, friend or loved ones will be so grateful you didn’t.

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Registered Charity 1085311.

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Affiliated to Headway UK– the brain injury association a Registered Charity