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Charlie and Jake Korving

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Charlie and Jake Korving

Charlie and Jake Korving

Charlie is Jake's rock

When Charlie Korving's husband Jake, from Broadstone, in Dorset, was knocked off his bike by a careless driver in October 2011, the senior radiographer was left in a coma with a near-fatal brain injury. The long-term effects of Jake's brain injury included severe short- and long-term memory problems, which caused him to forget Charlie's name, the couple's relationship and, tragically, their wedding day in New York.

After the accident, Jake was rushed to St. George's Hospital, in London, where he remained in a coma for two weeks as his life hung in the balance. Charlie never left her loved one's side, though Jake remained in a minimally consciousness state for so long that his family was asked to consider the heart-breaking option of turning off his life-support machine.

"We refused to lose hope that my gladiator husband Jake would begin to improve," said Charlie.

 

"However, we were warned that, should Jake regain consciousness, he may never be able to walk or communicate with us again and would likely require long-term residential care."

From colleague to life-saver

Jake's condition was eventually stabilised, but, a series of infections and complications followed by a further brain clot diagnosis meant he required further emergency brain surgery in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Before the accident Jake, who has a first class degree in Radiography from the University of Hatfield, in Herefordshire, had been an employee at St. George's Hospital and it was his colleagues who delivered life-saving treatment during the earliest stages of his recovery.

Charlie wasted no time giving up her job to devote her life to caring for her husband and even moved from Devon into his family's home in London to be nearby for the three months he was in St. George's hospital. Eventually, Jake was transferred to Glenside Rehabilitation Centre, in Salisbury, for a further eight months to begin a long process of rehabilitation.

Charlie continued: "Having moved to Poole to start a family just a few months prior to the accident, I suddenly faced the enormous stress of trying to manage finances alone while simultaneously  ensure that Jake received the best treatment and support.

"To make matters worse, we had recently taken out a new mortgage and now had no income to pay the bills.

Taking courage from small achievements

"With our dreams of starting a family also on hold, I helped Jake relearn how to walk, talk and eat independently, taking courage from small achievements such as the moment Jake was well enough to roll over in bed unassisted.

"We faced many uphill battles as Jake's brain injury caused epilepsy, difficulties processing information, and behavioural changes meaning that, even today, he requires ongoing support and can become distressed very easily."

When Jake was finally well enough to return home, Charlie continued to provide the 24-hour care her husband needed. Despite being told six months after the accident that Jake would always struggle to speak and may never walk, Charlie continued to encourage and support him until he finally took his first steps with assistance. Today, he continues to astound his consultant with his extraordinary recovery.

'Jake could not remember my face on our first wedding day'

As part of his rehabilitation, Charlie also arranged for Jake to volunteer at their local Headway group, and supported Jake to put his love of animals to good use and began voluntary work at a local cat sanctuary.

When Jake was finally well enough to return home, Charlie continued to provide the 24-hour care her husband needed. Despite being told six months after the accident that Jake would always struggle to speak and may never walk, Charlie continued to encourage and support him until he finally took his first steps with assistance. Today, he continues to astound his consultant with his extraordinary recovery.

As part of his rehabilitation, Charlie also arranged for Jake to volunteer at their local Headway group, and supported Jake to put his love of animals to good use and began voluntary work at a local cat sanctuary.

Today, Charlie has returned part-time to her job as a commercial writer and, though Jake still receives support from a personal assistant four days a week, she often works from home so she can continue to help make decisions and plan his daily routine.

Last August, the couple celebrated their five-year wedding anniversary by renewing their vows at Central Park, in New York, where they were married six years ago.

"I am so proud of how far we have come since the accident," said Charlie. "Our first New York wedding was a magical day and a memorable holiday. Following Jake's brain injury, he could not remember most of our relationship, my name, our home, our cat and, heartbreakingly, our wedding. Renewing our wedding vows was therefore extra special for us as Jake still cannot remember my face on the first time we did it.

"It was very frightening when Jake was unconscious in hospital, particularly as we had just taken out a mortgage and, as neither of us could work, paying the bills became a serious issue. I called his bank to sort out the finances and explain he was in a coma – they asked to speak with the account holder!"

'My gladiator husband is doing an amazing job'

"In the early stages of recovery, Jake would often become very confused by daily rituals," said Charlie. "Things like reading in bed before going to sleep that we once took for granted as a 'normal' part of our routine and life together seemed strange to Jake.

"Life can still be very difficult at times and I often have to take a step back and remember that, in the context of recovering from a brain injury, my gladiator husband is doing an amazing job.

"Connecting with carers and other people affected by brain injury at Headway Dorset's support sessions helps me realise I'm not alone. We still face complex daily challenges but we count ourselves very lucky that he has made such a truly extraordinary recovery."

Charlie collects her Carer of the Year Award in 2015

Charlie collects her Carer of the Year Award in 2015

In December, Charlie's ongoing devotion and love for Jake was celebrated by Headway supporters and members at The Dorchester Hotel, in London, when she was crowned Carer of the Year 2016 by James Cracknell at the Headway Annual Awards ceremony.

Charlie's awards nomination was made even more special as it was Jake's sister, Anna Korving, who put her forward for the honour.

"When I told Charlie she was a national awards finalist she burst into tears as the news lightened an otherwise challenging time for her and Jake," said Anna.

"Brain injury ripped our lives apart. The incredible thing about Charlie is that she refused to stop believing that things could get better. It has not been easy for her, particularly as Jake could not remember her name for a very long time and he eventually got it tattooed to his hand to help him remember! Time that Charlie and Jake should have spent building their home and marriage together was instead spent filled with uncertainty in a hospital ward.

"Charlie is Jake's rock, keeping her loving promises she made to Jake as his wife and helping him with everything from physical and cognitive recovery to fighting for his rights for the correct types of rehabilitative care. Thanks to Charlie, there is life after brain injury for Jake.

Her ceaseless loyalty and determination to face the battle of brain injury together is extraordinary and she truly deserves national recognition."

Related links

Get detailed information for carers in our dedicated caring section

Daily Mirror: Bike crash made my husband forget I was his wife - so I married him again

 

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