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Carol Smith

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Carol Smith

Carol Smith

It wasn't until my daughter had her brain injury that my husband realised he had one too.

Carol Smith from Sheffield had hoped that after her daughter sustained a brain injury, no-one else in her family would have to suffer the same fate.

Little did she know, her husband Robert had already sustained one – 42 years ago.

In 2015, Carol's 13-year old daughter Georgia contracted hydrocephalus, a condition which is caused by a build up of fluid inside the skull and can result in significant pressure and damage to the brain.

Georgia underwent emergency surgery to save her life and spent a total of three weeks in hospital.

Her mother Carol, who is now sharing her story as part of National Carers Week, hopes to highlight the extreme challenge of caring for two people with brain injuries.

She said: "It's been extremely challenging caring for Georgia and Robert. They both have brain injuries, but they couldn't be more different.

"It's been especially difficult caring for Georgia. I think when you become a carer for someone in your family, as opposed to it being your job, it's a lot tougher because you knew what that person was like before their injury."

You have to come to terms with the new relationship you have with your loved one and the new person they have become.

Whilst his daughter was in recovery, Robert came to the shock realisation that he was also living with the effects of a brain injury.

In 1973, three-year old Robert was crossing the road when he was run down by a car. He spent three weeks in a coma and a further nine months in hospital.

After undergoing surgery to remove part of his damaged brain and seven titanium plates in his skull, Robert was discharged without any out-patient support or rehabilitation.

He returned to daily life and has since gone on to work full-time and become a father.

Carol said: "Things finally made sense to him. Robert had no idea that he had a brain injury until Georgia contracted hydrocephalus.

"All he knew was that after the accident, he had to learn how to walk, talk, read and write again. No-one even suggested that he could have sustained a brain injury all those years ago.

"Doctors were able to recognise the physical injuries Robert had sustained, such as the loss of his hearing in his right ear, but not the hidden cognitive ones. Robert was told his broken bones, bruises and scratches would heal in time, but there was never any mention of the lifelong impact the accident could have on him.

"Robert had always had trouble communicating and he was very irritable, but we just thought that's who he was. He finds it difficult to articulate his emotions and he can often come across as angry or upset even when he isn't.

"But now we know that he has a brain injury, it's much easier to spot the effects of the injury and manage them."

Since learning about Robert's brain injury, Carol has taken on the role of a part-time carer for both her husband and daughter Georgia.

Ordering medication, helping with social skills, bathing and feeding are just a few of her responsibilities.

Robert, Carol and their daughter Georgia

Robert, Carol and their daughter Georgia

Georgia and Robert have found that their brain injuries have brought them closer together and now they are both now getting the support they need.

Carol said: "Georgia and Robert have a profound understanding of each other's situations. They both know what it's like to live with the effects of a brain injury and it's really helped to strengthen their father-daughter connection."

Despite the challenges she has faced within her role as a carer to both her daughter and husband, Carol's outlook on life remains as positive as ever.

She said: "I've seen and experienced the worst thing imaginable when I thought Georgia was going to die. Now, anything is an improvement. My daughter and my husband are both alive so I have a lot to be grateful for.

"The most important thing to remember is that a brain injury survivor changes after their injury. They're not the person they were before. You have to try and respect the person they are now, and what they can or cannot handle."

It's also crucial that carers take time out for themselves. Sometimes you can put all your time and energy in to helping others and forget about your own needs and wellbeing.

"I find that going for a quiet walk, chatting to friends or visiting a carers centre helps."

 

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