Only Lessons

Since the New Year, the majority of my posts have been focused on the life changes we have had to accept as people with a disability. The main message of those posts, Health, Independence, Employment and Taking Control Of Our Lives Back (a message I’m hoping I managed to get across accurately and clearly) was that we should not settle for less in terms of our expectations of life. The other thing I was trying to communicate was that once we get to a certain point, i.e. when we have acknowledged our disability for what it is, a disability that makes things harder for us in life, then we have reached a milestone. At this point we can really take off into different and, in some cases, slightly less tangible areas that really are about your own state of mind, the type of person you are and adopting a certain mentality regarding Acquired Brain Injury.

This post is predominantly going to be about positivity, negativity, how you see yourself and the way you judge certain situations and their outcomes (that’s what I meant by those slightly less tangible aspects of brain injury). Really, those thought processes are what can determine the degree of success that an ABI patient has in their recovery. After all, we are all individuals and we are all different and it is for that reason that I see this post as particularly important. I hope you will see what I mean by the end of it.

Failure

  • FAILURE (noun) – failing, non-performance, lack of success, an unsuccessful person or thing.

Failure is a horrible and ugly word. The English Dictionary defined this word with negativity etched into that definition (which can be seen above) in all of its meanings. Taken at face value, if we were to interpret meaning purely in the academic sense and how the dictionary defines it, there is no way in which this word can be used which has any positive connotations.

For you now, as a patient, carer, family member, get yourself into a state of mind where this word no longer exists. Erase it from your vocabulary if you are in any way involved with an ABI recovery. This ugly word’s use is one that should be carefully considered taking into account the dictionary definition I have provided above, when you are dealing with anyone, let alone someone who is going to be as emotionally sensitive as a person recovering from an ABI.

So what word do we use when the inevitable setbacks that will most certainly occur rear their ugly heads? Well, what we do is we think about things in context and we most certainly do not give the outcomes of a challenges a simple a one-word definition.

Engaging With Things & Testing Ourselves

After we suffer something as traumatic and life changing as an ABI, we cannot shut ourselves away from the world. We must be brave and throw caution to the wind in trying certain things and conquering new challenges. Of course this is, again, within context. I’m not saying we should try and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but when opportunities and challenges that we see as manageable present themselves then we shouldn’t be afraid to try them. It is all about perception and how we scale the size of the task in front of us. Weigh up the potential positive outcomes against the potential negative outcomes in line with the situation of the patient. If you feel that the overall potential benefits outweigh the potential negatives, then give it a try (if you are a patient reading this, perhaps with the help and advice of an advocate or carer). Not only does this ensure that we are out, engaging with the world but it also allows us to test our strength; find out where we are weak and where we are strong and areas where we should be focussing in terms of trying to improve.

Secondly, one of the key things I have learnt over quite a long period of time after my ABI was that recovery progression (progression is the key word there, that is what we all want for ourselves and our loved ones, progression in life) was essentially an elongated process of trial and error. Trying different things, new things and even old things that seemed unfamiliar to me post-ABI. Trust me when I say this, sometimes I came back from outings on the verge of tears because I couldn’t handle the task I had tackled and I was tired, frustrated and angry. Sometimes I had mini emotional breakdowns in public because someone had barged into me and invaded my personal space or the amount of stimulation I was getting from being in a loud, crowded street was too much. Sometimes I wanted to give up. But I didn’t.

When my parents and I realized that certain situations and tasks were too much for me to handle, we tackled something smaller. If that didn’t work out we reduced the size of the task further still until we found something manageable. Even if the task to stimulate a patient is something as simple as going to a park with a parent or carer and feeding the ducks, it is a task that the patient can do, in a relaxed atmosphere that they can enjoy. It is then a case of, when the patient is ready, moving up to something slightly bigger, something more challenging and see how they get on with that. I would also add at this point, don’t progress too fast. Communicate regularly on whether they still enjoy whatever simple task has been chosen. Or, even wait for them to ask you for a change.

No Failure, Only Lessons

I guess what I am trying to say here is that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to recovery post-ABI for patients, parents and carers alike. You musn’t be afraid of trying new things and gradually challenging yourself more and more as the road to recovery goes on. When setbacks occur for a patient tackling a challenge, do not define the outcome of it in one-dimensional terms of success vs. failure. Try to see it as a lesson learned and know that, for now at least, that challenge is too much. Take a step back, look at something smaller. Or, you may have found an area where a patient is managing quite well, a huge positive that you can jot down when planning the progression of the recovery, you now know an area where he or she is capable, that you can build from. Either way, do not judge any experience as a success or a failure but as a lesson learned. Ny learning as we go we can build up a programme that will suit the abilities of the patient and hopefully slowly build strength in areas where he or she is struggling. Remember, never success or failure, only lessons.

I hope that this post has been helpful for you. If it has, follow my blog on WordPress and join the mailing list to get them sent direct to your inbox via email. For other information on who I am and what I am about, follow me on twitter. My handle is @ABIblogger. Thanks very much for reading and I hope you’ll be back to read more.

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Acknowledging Disability

It took me a long time to finally accept the monumental change that had happened in my life. In my past posts on Independence, Health, Employment and Taking Back Control, while being focused on being able to live as an independent adult with our own lives have all had a common theme of acknowledging where our strengths and weaknesses lie. In essence coming to terms with our disabilities.

Coming to terms with having something like brain damage and accepting myself as a disabled person, was a really difficult thing for me to do. However, more than six and a half years have passed since the horrible night I suffered my brain trauma and I can confidently say now, without fear “I am a disabled person with brain damage.”

Now, I used the word “fear” there. I personally think that’s interesting when I consider my brain injury in the grand scheme of things, purely on a human level. I have to then ask and analyse myself (again!) what was it that I was afraid of?

A Short Series Of Questions

So here I have to ask questions to myself, what were the things I feared that made it so difficult for me to admit that I was disabled? Was I afraid that, by admitting to myself and to others that I was disabled, I would be excluding myself from the rest of society? Did I fear rejection, ridicule and prejudice in a society that increasingly seems to be turning a blind eye to the plight of those in need? Where, in this new sense of self that I was coming to terms with, would I fit in? Finally, had I subconsciously adopted an unknown, subconscious prejudice (not vindictive, violent or exploitative, more a feeling of discomfort when in their presence) against “the other”?

A Short Universal Answer

The answer to all of these questions is yes. I realise I may be making myself seem more unlikable to you in admitting that but I feel it is only fair for me to be truthful. I would be doing you a disservice if I made up some weak, halfhearted excuse as opposed to telling you the truth that my fears were based on basic human instincts; the need to fit in, the need to have a place and a role in everyday society, the need to be “normal”. Of course these are things that everybody wants really. They make for an easier life, a life you can float through without analysing, thinking for yourself, challenging or disrupting the natural order of things. What I see when I look at all of those previous questions and the answers I have just given is that the fear that stopped me accepting myself for who I am after my brain injury is one very basic, human fear…

The Fear Of Change

The fear of change is a very basic and, quite honestly, understandable fear. As human beings we like security; we like to know when our next paycheck is coming from, that there is food in the fridge and that we have a job to do when we get up in the morning. It is obvious that this gives us a feeling of safety and purpose each and every day. So when something occurs that has the potential to disrupt that harmony, something that could take away the things we rely on to get us through life feeling contented and secure, it is only natural that we are wary, cautious or afraid of that change.

So when we ourselves are fundamentally changed from the inside to out, the organ that controls our speech, our movement, that voice in our head that help us make decisions, decide what to say or do, the consequences to our cognitive abilities is damaged so that we are (I realise I’m speaking universally here but I’m only speaking from my own experience) an almost completely different person to who we were. That is a terrifying prospect for both patients and their families. That the person you are and that they love will be different from the one that they know, have known for years and that they love and cherish.

I don’t know about anyone else who may be reading this, but I feel as though my brain has been switched with someone else’s since my ABI. I am a totally different person now. Taking on the challenge of recovering from an acquired brain injury is taking a step into the unknown; as I said it feels as though my brain has been witched with someone else’s. It’s like a game of roulette; you never know what number the ball will land on or whose brain you will get.

Carrying on from that, what do we rely on more than our own brains, than ourselves? When someone has suffered a brain injury, not even the best experts and consultants are willing to predict the ramifications and consequences until the patient is fully awake. So for those on the outside, looking at a brain injury patient it’s the fear of the unknown. Not knowing how much of the person that they knew and love they will get back.

What Do We Do?

Fear, we all suffer from just in different ways. When I look at the questions I asked myself earlier (barring the prejudice one), they are all reasonable and similar questions one would ask themselves in other more conventional life changes. For example, if they were moving to a new place, quitting their job to start a new business or getting back into dating after a divorce. Those types of fears are deeply rooted within us; the fear of change and of the unknown.

It’s what I have come to learn. Life itself is an unknown thing, full of change. We can’t control everything all the time and we never know what is waiting for us right around the corner. Whether that is meeting the girl of your dreams in a café on your lunch break for example, or suffering a brain injury on a night out. Life is peaks and troughs. If we can accept that life is an unknown, that it has good and bad elements and if we can embrace the fear that comes with that and confront it head on, we can move forward accepting ourselves for who we are.

I can safely say that I have fully accepted that I am a disabled person. Confronting the fact that life will change and it will throw bad things at you has made me a stronger person. Now that I have suffered my brain injury and have seen what is truly the harsh side of everyday life, because of the strength and the determination it has given me to prove to everyone that disabled people are incredible, brave, valuable and talented, despite the disabilities I have now, I wouldn’t go back to the person I was before.

Rewiring The Brain…

My name is Tom, I am 26 years old and I am the survivor of an Acquired Brain Injury.

The last update, as well as the next few, will be devoted to the importance of having a strategy, a game plan, and things to aim at throughout an ABI recovery. Having targets to aim for, throughout the time I was sidelined by my injury only increased my determination that I was not going to allow the injury to define my future. Even if the targets do not seem that big, the little victories should not be underestimated. Those little wins give us encouragement and hope and give us the determination to carry on fighting what is a very difficult battle to have to fight, day-in day-out.

Start Small

As I said in my introduction, little wins are important. After a brain injury, we as patients are coming to terms with a new sense of self; there are things that do not work the same way anymore, things we can no longer do, things we don’t understand the same way anymore to name just a few. These huge changes in the way a mind works can, and trust me I’ve been there, be devastating to ones confidence and self esteem. You start to believe that you are stupid and that the changes are the effect of something you have done wrong, a mistake you have made. The worst thing that could happen to an ABI patient is for them to just give up on themselves and on life in general.

The key to avoiding this would be to slowly build their confidence again. Attempt small achievable tasks that can be worked towards. The saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” could not be more relevant here. While certain pathways have no doubt been damaged or even destroyed by the injury, the brain is an incredible thing; it attempts to create new pathways to try and counter the damage that has been done (according to what I have been told anyway). In a metaphorical sense, over the years that follow an ABI, the brain will be in a process of attempting to rewire itself, so it can be used to its maximum capacity. A good example based on my experience was an issue with balance. Shortly after leaving hospital, it became clear that maintaining my balance while walking was clearly something I was having trouble with. So this became one of my first challenges: make sure I can get around the house properly. So not long after leaving hospital, the only way I could get up and down the stairs in my house was for my Dad to be stood in front of me, with me holding onto his shoulders to keep my balance. As time went on, we went a step further with me holding onto the bannister with one hand while my Dad supported me around the waist. Then, after that, it was for me to walk down the stairs holding onto both of the bannisters, with my dad a step beneath me, ready to catch me if I fell (hopefully). I then had to go down the stairs just using one bannister, with my dad still below me ready to catch me (even more hopefully!). Finally, It was time to attempt walking down the stairs unsupported, with my family waiting at the bottom (expecting me to crash and burn, no doubt).

I didn’t crash and burn though. It had taken me a month to get to the stage where I only had to use the bannister. I know that the process was very slow, but when I finally achieved my goal, walking up and down the stairs unaided (and without having to take ten minutes to process the method) the feeling of it was fantastic. I was so proud to have achieved, what any normal person would’ve called, an easy feat. It was those kind of moments and expanding on those little victories that allowed me to build up the confidence to think up an overall game plan, a long-term goal.

Keep A Long Term Goal In Mind

This is the difficulty of recovering from an ABI. You can never stay static. Or at least, that’s what we found. Maybe I should rephrase that, it’s INADVISABLE to stay static. Each day, we found that there was a way for me to be stimulated in some way; whether that was simply by watching a film and trying to follow the plot and character lines, or by trying to do something as simple as boil an egg and make a cup of tea for breakfast. All of these things were contributing to rewiring those damaged pathways I spoke about in the first section.

However, what I found throughout my recovery was that it was also important to have an, overall, larger goal, something that those little victories were moving towards. The reason I believe that this part of the recovery (laying out a long term goal) was key, was because it made those little victories all the more significant because they were moving towards something bigger, it gave those little victories all the more importance, and finally it gave me a hugely increased incentive to achieve those little victories.

My goal, was a very large one, to be deemed fit by my neurologist to go to university (what I was due to be doing anyway if it hadn’t been for the bloody injury!). I realise that this goal may not be suitable for all of you reading this, however it purely depends on the situation. It requires some serious assessment of both what the patient wants and needs and finding an appropriate target that will meet those requirements. The key is finding the balance to make the target achievable. I dread to think what my state of mind and my moral would’ve been had my doctor told me that I could not go to university. That is the danger you are faced with when selecting that long-term target: if the result is failure, it will be hugely demoralizing to the patient. I cannot tell you anything else because it would be a lie and my aim in this blog is to give you the uncensored truth of life after an ABI, and this is one of those truths.

If, however, you can find the right target and the patient achieves it, the positives and benefits can be overwhelming. When I went to university, it made my brain work as I had to live independently (cook my own meals, get to class on time, wash my clothes), as well as this it stimulated my brain from an academic standpoint, improved my social skills and improved my mental stamina. In my opinion, my brain was forced to rewire itself quicker due to an adapt or perish type mentality I had to adopt. Had I not been able to attend university, my life would have gone down a drastically different route.

(N.B. A massive thank you to Southampton Solent University and in particular, Access Solent. Access Solent provided me with all the support required for disabled students to succeed in terms of accommodation, note-takers, recording equipment, and regular academic mentoring sessions to ensure I was on task, as well as counseling sessions to help me with my emotional problems while I attended. So to say I did it on my own would be lie, without my family and Access Solent I would not have achieved any of the things I did. There are people out there who want to help you. It is merely a case of doing your research, approaching the right people and not taking no for an answer!)

Thanks for reading! I hope you have either enjoyed this chapter of my story or gained something constructive from it. If you want to hear more of my story then follow me here on WordPress or I am also available on Twitter, my handle is @ABIblogger. Thanks everyone and keep going!

Our Approach…

My name is Tom, I am 25 years old and I am the survivor of an Acquired Brain Injury. Getting settled in at home is an important part of leaving hospital after suffering a brain injury. As I said in the last post, comfort, consistency in the environment the patient is in plays a vital part to any recovery attempt that is being made. However, there are different approaches to the recovery and each different approach has its own positives and negatives. I am going to talk through some of the approaches I went through in the hope you will see what could be gained from it.

The “Military” Approach

I will start off by talking about what it was we chose to avoid. After a brain injury, a patient will most likely be suffering from impaired cognitive function. There are different ways to approach this and one of those ways is to have repetitive, regimented, practice over and over, until those cognitive functions return to (not full which is nearly impossible after a severe brain injury) an improved capacity.

After my parents did some research, we chose to avoid the strict, regimented, routine. They found that many of the patients suffered greatly both in terms of their self-confidence: due to a continued attempt to do something that they simply could not do any more. It is bad enough to realise that you can not do certain things you used to be able to do perfectly well, but it must be even worse to be forced to attempt that thing over and over again even though you can’t do it. It must bring so much anger, sadness, frustration, not to mention resentment towards those that are trying to impose this “military-esque” (for lack of a better term) approach to trying to do something almost impossible: return a patient to the same state they were in pre-brain injury.

The second aspect where the regimented routine could cause difficulties was simply in the dynamic between carer and patient. Now this is definitely linked to the first issue and to comments I have made in earlier posts. It is crucial to maintain a good relationship between patient and carer. If the patient is under pressure and being forced to attempt things that are simply beyond them, they will begin to think that there is something they are doing wrong. It is essential that in the approach to the recovery, the carer should not necessarily understand (understanding a brain injury is pretty much impossible unless you have been through it) but empathise with the patient. It is critical that you do not make them feel as though it their fault, that you are angry or frustrated with them. For any carers out there, positive reinforcement and attempting to instill confidence in the patient as they approach, even, what may seem like a fairly routine activity is important to building up confidence so that they can move on to more ambitious tasks further down the road of recovery.

What We Did: Our ABI Recovery Approach

There were certain things that I had to do in my recovery for very specific and important reasons. I had to keep up with basic mental exercises (i.e. Sudoku puzzles, word searches, cross words, spot the difference etc.) to try and improve my cognitive function. I also had to do physical exercise as well, however I was slightly limited in this, as I had always enjoyed contact sports, which were then impossible due to my fragile skull (they are not impossible now but still have an element of risk to them). One of the things I really did do was eat. I ate a lot. I had lost 4 Stone (64 lb.’s) while in hospital so I needed to put some weight back on to make me a touch healthier.

These were certain things that I had to adhere to. However my parents had been doing their research on how to approach this kind of thing, we decided to go in the opposite direction of the type of the recovery mentioned on the first page of this entry. We decided to use a method of very basic routine. Times I got up, times I ate meals, times I would walk into town were all relatively routine and at specific times of the day. It was my spare time that was for me to decide. It was basically a way for me to use my spare time in a way that benefitted me most at that time, on that day. If I needed to sleep, I would sleep. If I needed a snack, I would have a snack. If I wanted to get out of the house, I would go out.

Having spoken to my parents about this though, I cannot truthfully tell you that this was some ingenious or innovative approach to tackling the aftermath of an ABI. It seems to me as though this approach was both as a result of not really being given that much information from Brain Injury Services where we lived, meaning we were left in the dark somewhat. I also have heard her say that this liberal approach to my recovery was something of an attempt to deny the truth. My mum has said to me that she thought when I came home from hospital everything would, after a while, go back to normal. To try and keep things going as normal seems to have been an attempt to deny the truth its inevitable victory. I think that there is, especially around where I live, a lack of support and assessment for carers (and brain injury services as a whole if you ask me!). I cannot say what those services are like in other areas of the country but here, we were somewhat left in the dark, to figure it out ourselves. I would be very surprised if it is not a similar case all over the country due to the enigmatic nature of ABI’s. It seems you can never really tell what will be permanent and what won’t, what will improve and what won’t, if you will be able to do certain things again or whether you won’t. So it may be that in approaching an ABI recovery for any carers out there, you may be left to fend for yourselves and figure out what is best for the patient. This can obviously work out well in some ways as you know the patient better than a doctor or a psychologist. It is about finding the balance; knowing when the doctor is telling you something that is very important that must be done, and even then, if there is a way you can approach that task that will ultimately suit the patient better than the way a doctor has suggested then try it your way as well. You need to be willing to think outside the box to get the best possible results for the patient.

If I were to be asked, “what is the best approach to a full recovery?” I would have to say that my answer would be that there is no full recovery, that’s how I would start anyway. What I would go on to say is that the path towards recovery is dependent on the individual; their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, their mental toughness and determination all play a significant part. The best approach would be to try and tailor the recovery towards the patient and what works for them. But one of the key aspects I would say to any carers out there would be to use your common sense and try to empathise with the patient as much as possible. Put yourself in the patients shoes, think of what they have lost, what they are coming to terms with, and what it would be like for your brain to be working fine one day, and then at ½ speed the next. The best advice I can give to any people looking after an ABI patient out there is to put yourself in their shoes and remember everything that happens along the way. Treat any difficulties or mistakes as a learning experience, not as a failure. Learn, adapt and adjust for the benefit of the patient.

If you want to follow me on here and leave some feedback that would be great as I welcome any constructive criticism. Also, if you want to get in touch and hear about upcoming posts, follow me on my Twitter handle @ABIblogger or follow me on WordPress to get email updates on a new post. Thanks everyone! Please share/retweet/read and whatever else you can do to raise brain injury awareness!

The last of the pseudo-science…

My Name is Tom and I am the survivor of an ABI.

In the last post, I covered the injuries to the brain that I suffered (as I understand them in layman’s terms). In this post, I will be looking at the different sections of the brain, what they do (again, as I understand it), and that will lead us on to the next few weeks where I will discuss the problems I had when waking from my induced coma. Trust me, I am doing my best to get away from the medical stuff, the neurology, and move quickly on to my experiences and the real meat of this blog.

From the research I did through my medical notes, it seems that most of the damage was done to the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, and some minor damage to the frontal lobes (and I’m sure other places suffered some minor damage due to the midline shift/increased ICP). Now, finding out the function of the different parts (or lobes) of the brain has been interesting to me as it has allowed me to put the after effects I still suffer from in some kind of context. I had done little to no research prior to this blog on what effect the damage to different parts of my brain has had on me. It is much easier to not address it: to live in denial of something is a lot easier than accepting it and taking steps to address and overcome it. After all, it is only really in the last year to eighteen months where I have started to truly accept my ABI and what it has done to me.

Now, the different lobes of the brain and what they do. This is how I understand it and the picture below should give some clarity on the locations of the different lobes.

Colour coded and labelled picture indicating the different lobes of the human brain.
Colour coded and labelled picture indicating the different lobes of the human brain.

The main section of the brain is called the cerebrum and provides the tools for thinking that we use in every day life. It is divided into right and left hemispheres: The left hemisphere is responsible for the logical side of thinking, numbers, words, lists, logic, sequence, linearity etc. and controls the right side of your body. Whereas the right hemisphere controls the left side of your body and is responsible for the more creative endeavors such as rhythm, spatial awareness, colour, imagination and daydreaming. The cerebrum is then split into four different lobes, each of which has a different function.

  1. The Frontal Lobe – The frontal lobe controls so many different aspects of what we do and what our brain does. To include just a few, it controls creative thought, problem solving, intellect, judgement, behaviour, attention, physical reactions, muscle movements, smell and personality.
  2. The Parietal Lobe – The Parietal Lobe mainly focuses on comprehension, monitoring things such as language, reading, visual functions, internal stimuli and sensory comprehension. It is also home to the Sensory Cortex and the Motor Cortex. The Sensory Cortex receives information from the spinal cord regarding the position of our many body parts and how we are moving those body parts. The Motor Cortex helps to check and control the movement of the body.
  3. The Temporal Lobe – The Temporal Lobe controls our visual and audio memories. Located here are sections that help us with speech and language as well as hearing. It also has an effect on some of our behavioural factors. The Temporal Lobe also houses Wernicke’s Area. Little is known about this area by even the best doctors but it is known to help us formulate/understand speech.
  4. The Occipital Lobe – located at the back of the head, it helps to control vision. The Occipital Lobe also houses Broca’s Area, the area of the brain that controls the facial neurons as well as our understanding of speech and language.

So theses are the four main lobes of the brain. I promise you, that that should be that on the science jargon. But I felt it to be important to include some of the scientific/neurology stuff as it places my future experiences in a proper context. So I hope to see you here again. Would love it if I could get a few more followers on Twitter (follow me @ABIblogger) and maybe follow my blog while you’re here. I assure you I am doing this with the main aim of helping people. Any feedback I can get would be amazing! Thank you so much everyone. Stay strong!

The Injury…

The Injury…

My name is Tom and I am the survivor of an ABI.

(N.B. I am hoping that the above gallery will help with understanding some of the injuries I suffered.)

To start off with, I think the most important thing will be to cover the injury I suffered. I am trying to explain what happened in layman’s terms so it is easy to understand for you readers. I’m not sure I fully understand it myself but I have done my best. At the end of this post I am hoping that you will have a basic understanding of the injury I suffered.

On the 30th of August 2009, I was admitted to Southampton Hospital having been assaulted on a night out with friends. The night out had been to celebrate my acceptance into university, it was something of a last hurrah with my friends from my home town, a small town in Dorset in the south of England. At the end of the night, while waiting for friends outside of a take-away restaurant, two men confronted me. After a verbal altercation with one of them, the other punched me in the head, knocking me out before I hit the ground. My head smashed into the pavement with such force that it caused multiple fractures to my skull and internal damage to my brain.

I was admitted to the hospital as a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, more or less the worst you can be. I had suffered a comminuted fracture of the occipital bone, a longitudinal fracture of the left petrous bone, a subdural haematoma, extensive subarachnoid blood in the basal cisterns, bilateral frontal contusions, and inferior temporal lobe contusions. These injuries also meant that my intracranial pressure (ICP) was extremely high.

This may seem like a lot of medical jargon to you (to me too, really), but I have done some research that has helped me to understand, in very basic terms, what these injuries mean.

  1. Intracranial pressure – Bleeding and swelling of the brain, causing it to push against the cranium from the inside. This puts pressure on the brain itself and damages it from within.
  2. Comminuted fracture of the occipital bone – A comminuted fracture is essentially the result of a massive impact to the skull, causing the bones to be forced inwards. These fractures are most commonly associated with assaults: the use of weapons, blunt objects, kicks to the head etc.
  3. A longitudinal fracture of the left petrous bone – The petrous bone supports the temple as well as housing the bones and vessels required for hearing. A longitudinal fracture is one where “the vertical axis of the fracture parallels the petrous ridge” (I have to say, I am not sure what this means. I will do my best to update this info so it is easier to understand).
  4. A Subdural Haematoma – Bleeding on the surface of the brain caused by the bursting of small blood vessels that bridge the subdural space, the space created by the abnormal separation of the Dura mater and the arachnoid mater. This is likely to lead to an increase in ICP.
  5. Subarachnoid blood in the basal cisterns – Bleeding into the wide gap between the two temporal lobes.
  6. Bilateral frontal contusions – This is essentially severe bruising to the frontal lobes of my brain. The force of when I hit the pavement caused the brain to rattle around inside my skull.
  7. Inferior temporal lobe contusions – Severe bruising to the inferior temporal lobe due to the way my brain moved about inside my skull at the point of impact.
  8. Midline shift – Midline shift is a shift of the brain past its centre line. Presence of a midline shift is an indicator of high ICP.

Upon arrival at Southampton hospital and the diagnosis of my injuries, my family were told to expect the worst as I was rushed into surgery where a craniectomy was performed: a procedure where a section of the skull is removed and placed under the surface of the skin in my stomach (as the skull requires the presence of blood or it shrivels and dies), to allow the brain to swell and subsequently reduce the intracranial pressure. A procedure was also performed to remove the shards of skull caused by the comminuted fracture of the occipital bone.

After the surgery, my family was informed it had been as successful as it could be given the circumstances. The doctor told them I would be placed in an induced coma to allow my brain to rest, and the waiting began.

(Please follow my progress with my ABI awareness by following me on Twitter, located on my profile but for anyone my user name is @ABIblogger)