39-year old Daniel Sutherland from Muir of Ord, Scotland has always been a family man. When he wasn’t out on his bike or patrolling the streets as a police officer, he’d be spending his time with his two young daughters, 5-year old Lauren and 8-year old Katelin.
But in June 2018, Daniel fell off his bike and sustained a subarachnoid haemorrhage – it was hit and miss as to whether he’d make it. Heartbreakingly, his wife Lindsay and their two girls were facing a reality without their husband and dad by their sides.
Thankfully, Daniel was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
He said: “My helmet 100% saved my life. Without it, my wife would be a widow and my children would have no dad to drive them crazy!
My consultant as well as various doctors and nurses have told me that had I not worn my helmet, I wouldn’t be alive today.
Daniel was an experienced cyclist, covering over 150 miles a week and competing in local road cycling races regularly, but that didn’t prevent his accident.
Recalling the incident, he said: “I came off my bike (I still don't know how or why as I can’t remember), landing hard on my head and left side.
“As a result of the incident I sustained a broken collarbone, damage to my hearing on my left side and a subarachnoid haemorrhage.”
Daniel was rushed to hospital and placed in an induced coma before undergoing an emergency craniotomy to relieve the pressure building on his brain. He was then in a coma for a further five days and was later transferred to a neurological ward.
Throughout this, Daniel’s family were by his side every step of the way.
He said: “Reflecting back my thoughts whilst in hospital could be described as being both confused and in denial as to how bad my injury was. I can also recall being very worried about how I was going to return to work.
I was desperate to get home and be back with my family but after being discharged I realised that my recovery was going to be a slow process.
“I suffered from extreme dizzy spells and fatigue on a whole new level. I was accustomed to shift work, including night shifts, so I knew what fatigue felt like but the feeling I had (and still have to a lesser extent) was a totally different type of fatigue.
“The type of fatigue that a coffee doesn't fix, the type of fatigue where you can't string a sentence together anymore, the type of fatigue that is all consuming, that you can't fight, where all you can do is let it overwhelm you and sleep. Those with brain injury will know exactly what I'm talking about!
“These 'new' feelings of fatigue have affected me greatly. As someone who had always identified as a fit and active person, I have found it difficult to accept this new version of myself. I have been told many times to be kinder to myself and talk to myself the way I would talk to a loved one going through the same experience...I'm trying.”
Daniel has had great support from both his family and Headway.
“The support from my wife and children has been amazing and if I'm honest they've kept me going when I've thought about giving up,” he said.
“Both myself and Lindsay knew nothing about brain injury prior to my accident. We've both found the factsheets and booklets on the Headway website invaluable as a source of information. They’ve also provided reassurance that what I'm feeling is normal given the circumstances.
“I've also had a conversation with Headway Highland who supported me and informed me of meetings and gatherings with those who have suffered similar injuries. This offer of support helps me to know I'm not alone in how I'm feeling.”
Daniel has since returned to his job as a police officer with Police Scotland.
He said: “In all honesty, it is a significant daily challenge and a challenge that I dare say none of my colleagues would be aware of, as very few would notice any difference in me. I think I deal with it well but it’s exhausting.
“I have good days and bad days, some days I feel like I'm drowning, others I feel like I'm treading water and others I'm swimming along happily.
I'm still coming to terms with the fact that my brain injury is not the enemy, it's part of me and always will be, and I must keep learning to manage it.
Daniel is now hoping to use his own experiences for good by teaching school children about safe cycling.
He said: “I began attending my local primary school and teaching the children bikeability skills prior to my injury. Now I feel able, I am planning to return to this task and will be emphasising that wearing a bike helmet whilst cycling is a must.
“I support Headway’s Cycle Safety campaign and encourage every cyclist no matter where they are going or how long they are cycling for to wear a helmet 100% of the time.
I’m living proof that wearing a helmet can save your life!
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