Improving life after brain injury Need to talk? 0808 800 2244

Home About brain injury Individuals Brain injury and me

Alan's story

Share your story with us to help others affected by brain injury

Alan's story

Alan's story

Within a week, Alan's headache got worse, and he went back to the doctor

Alan has bravely decided to share some of his story because although it is challenging for him to recall such difficult times, he wants to give hope to other brain injury survivors. And in his own words, he has made a 'remarkable recovery' since life changed.

On December 8, 2022, near Tomintoul, where Alan lives, everything was under a thick blanket of heavy snow.

He recalled:

I was digging it out, and I fell over, and I banged my head – not hard – and so I didn't really think anything of it. Then, in early January, I developed a headache and saw the GP, who said it was a tension headache.

However, within a week, Alan's headache got worse, and he went back to the doctor, where he was prescribed painkillers.

Alan is a volunteer driver for people who would otherwise struggle to get to hospital appointments. While undertaking such a trip, his headache became excruciating, and he once again sought medical advice.

I saw a different GP, and he looked at me and said, 'Alan, you need to go to the hospital now, don't wait for an ambulance.'

Alan's wife drove him to the hospital in Elgin – which was nearly 35 miles away - where he had a CT scan and later discovered that he'd had two massive bleeds on his brain.

The decision was taken to transfer him to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary under blue lights and sirens. On arrival, he was admitted to a high-dependency unit. Where it was discovered his platelets were almost zero, and no operation could be performed because of the risk of bleeding to death.

As a result, he had to wait nearly a week before he underwent lengthy and complex surgery, which saw him go into the theatre complex under the knife for around five hours and spend two weeks in a high-dependency unit.

Although Alan doesn't remember all of this tough this time, he does remember being incredibly disorientated, having vivid nightmares and confused thoughts, including becoming agitated when he thought a nurse was preventing him from catching a First-Class flight to Sydney.

Two days after surgery, Alan once again became very confused and suffered post-operative delirium along with expressive dysphasia. In his confused state, he decided he needed to leave the ward because he thought, in his delirium, that somebody was coming to kill him. For several hours he attempted to leave the ward, but the nurses gently tried to persuade him to stay in bed eventually, they were successful.

I was told by the patient in the next bed that I was the perfect gentleman with them, but I wouldn't stay in bed," said Alan. "It was very frightening.

However, he remembers a turning point in his recovery came when he was visited by speech and language therapists, who offered him support.

He recalled:

They didn't give up. Some of the time, I had difficulty talking, I couldn't use my mobile phone, I couldn't even write my name, and I was thinking, ' Is this the future?’ It was horrible.
I used to go and hide in the dayroom, and a speech therapist called Hannah found me, and she helped me tremendously. She gave me a children's picture book with 50 pictures and asked me to identify them, which I did. '50 out of 50,' she said, 'you're brilliant'.
So that was the turning point, with her help and others. I slowly started to improve and moved out of high dependency and into the general ward, and then I was moved to the rehabilitation unit in Aberdeen.
I spent nearly three weeks in there, and with the help of therapists and nurses - they were fantastic - I was suddenly well on the road to recovery.

Alan said he was set speech and language 'homework' and that his commitment to completing this further boosted his recovery.

One day, the neurologist came and said, ‘Alan, I think you’re well enough to go home. What a turnaround you've had; it's nothing short of remarkable.'

Alan continued his recovery and therapy at home but later discovered he had a syndrome, which means his immune system attacks the platelets in his blood, and so impacts his ability to clot. This can affect his mood, and he's still being monitored for this reason, but overall, life has very much improved.

"I'm now allowed to drive, but I still get a headache," said Alan. "I don't think I'll ever make a full recovery, but I've had a remarkable one."

Although Alan feels many people are "worse off" than him, he appreciates that he was "pretty close to death" and so will never forget his surgeon, Kenneth and all those who helped him.

And Alan wants other brain injury survivors to remain as positive as possible and to fully embrace any support that they are offered.

It's easy for me to say this, but don't give up hope," he said. "Keep going, because I was in despair at one point, and I got very depressed about it. But with the help of the therapists and determination, I overcame it, and I'd say follow instructions and be determined to get well.

I thought I wouldn't make it, but I've been exceedingly lucky. I've made a fantastic recovery after being very, very ill with the help of the rehabilitation unit and the hospital in Aberdeen.

Many people have said, 'God, you're so lucky', and one of the nurses called me ‘a legend’ because of the recovery I've made from where I was at times, unable to talk or write, but with help, I've pulled through. It's quite remarkable.

I'd like to encourage people not to give up, and remarkable things can happen.

Share this page

Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

© Copyright Headway 2024  -  Site designed and developed by MEDIAmaker