It was a sunny day on her Easter break, Dee, a teacher and mum-of-two, had been rushing down the stairs and got her foot caught in her trouser leg, and tripped.
The old Victorian house she and her husband had just bought was being renovated, so the tiles had been lifted from the bottom of the stairs. The concrete underneath would break Dee’s fall.
Dee cannot remember that moment. The moment her husband and children would find her at the bottom of the stairs, trying to talk, but unable to form sentences.
The incident happened in April 2021 – so when the ambulance took Dee to hospital, her husband Richard was unable to go with her due to coronavirus restrictions. For Richard, and her wider family, on top of their worries, they were battling to get any news as to how she was.
When Richard finally managed to get hold of Dee’s neurologist, he was told that she had suffered a fractured skull and two subdural haematomas.
Nine days after the fall, Dee was home.
“I just felt sick all the time, and what made it worse was it was coupled with a constant intense pain inside my head that meant I couldn’t move for days because it was too sore” Dee remembers.
“All of my senses had altered. My sense of taste and smell were gone, but then everything else had become incredibly sensitive. It was like sensory overload.
“And as a busy working mum who was used to juggling twenty plates at a time, I struggled to focus on just one.
After lots of trial and error, Dee was able to get the right mix of medication for the pain and sickness, and things began to improve.
Dee said: “The physical then seemed to be more of a challenge. I was so wobbly but I wanted to get out walking as soon as possible.
With lots of work with her physio to improve her inner ear balance, step by step, she progressed.
“Improving my balance was just a game-changer” said Dee.
Finally, I could shower by myself without needing help. I was starting to walk better without feeling dizzy. It took a while to build the strength in my legs, then the strength in my core, but I could feel I was getting stronger and so I decided I’d try the Couch to 5k app.
Whilst it took time, and built slowly, the progress was heartening for Dee.
Remarkably just eleven months after her accident, Dee was putting on her trainers to run a 10k.
“For my children to be standing there, cheering me on, after an experience which has affected them far more than I think I realised, to see me running…. I hope that helps them. I hope it helps them feel less anxious. I hope it means they’ll stop worrying about me as much.
“I hope it helps them to feel that you can do anything you put your mind to.
“I want them to think – Ok, this rubbish thing happened, but it’s not always going to be rubbish.
“And I’m so grateful to my husband, who is also a teacher, who kept it all together for our girls when I was in hospital.
A brain injury doesn’t just affect one person. It affects a whole circle of people – my husband, my girls, my family up in Shetland. It’s had an impact on all of them. Far more than people realise.
After Dee’s husband Richard tweeted about Dee’s 10k success on social media, the response was overwhelming.
“It’s all very strange to see people praising me, I didn’t set out to do that at all. But I feel like my girls are proud of me – and if it helps to raise the profile of head injuries, and my story gives people hope, then it’s the right thing.
“Reading other people’s stories on Headway’s website really helped me after the accident. I was looking for someone who was like me. I needed to know that I could get better.
“A brain injury impacts your mood, your confidence, and even though I can have good moments, the brain fatigue is the hardest. I’ll start the day well, but when the fatigue sets in, I’ll be slurring and unable to find words.
“There’s still lots more I want to achieve. I want to get back to work. I’ve started going back into school to observe lessons for short periods of time, but it’s been difficult, and I’ve had to really listen to what I can manage.
“People will say, ‘But you look fine’ or ‘Are you not back to work fully yet?’
I’ve had to be learn to be patient, and pace myself. I hope other people can have that patience with me too.
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