Following a traumatic brain injury there is the inevitability of loss that follows. The loss of perhaps one’s cognitive, physical and/or emotional functioning from that of what it used to be or what it could have been.
The process of adjustment is an individual journey. This exhibition shares the stories of five individuals with brain injuries and allows us to explore how not everything is lost after a brain injury and that life and character very much continue in the most individual and unique ways possible.
Jessica - or Jess as she likes to be known - is a 19 year old girl. As a three day old baby she suffered an umbilical cord bleed losing 1/3rd of her blood volume, ending up in intensive care and requiring surgery.
At this point she was diagnosed as having Factor XIII deficiency – a very rare bleeding disorder. Her parents were told that she would require an intra-venous infusion of blood clotting protein, Factor XIII every month for the rest of her life, but that this prophylaxis would not be required until she was one year old.
Jess went on to suffer a massive cerebral haemorrhage at 8 months ; as a result Jess needed multiple brain surgeries and had many complications including ventriculitis (inflammation of the ventricles of the brain), a respiratory arrest and seizures.
Jess ended up with hydrocephalus and required insertion of a ventricular peritoneal shunt which drains fluid from her brain into her abdomen, she also required insertion of a shunt to drain a fluid-filled mass on the side of her brain.
These shunts malfunctioned many times, requiring further brain surgeries. Currently Jess has a shunt which she will require for the rest of her life.
Jess lives at home with her parents, two younger siblings, Adam and Luke, and her older brother Alexander who has just finished his degree in geology. Her older brother Matthew is away at university studying for his degree in engineering.
Cognitively, Jess’ difficulties lie in verbal understanding and expression, working memory and information processing. Jess also struggles with social understanding, confidence in social settings and emotional understanding and expression.
She conversely presents as above average with regard to visual spatial processing and reasoning and ability to perceive visual detail. This is a real strength for her and an area in her brain that remains preserved and unaffected by her injuries.
Jess, in more recent years, has been trying to work out what she would like to do in the future. She has successfully completed a Level 2 Beauty course at College and this year has just achieved her Level 2 Animal Care Diploma at Askham Bryan College.
She also very much enjoys looking after her large collection of animals at home. This includes two guinea pigs, one poodle, one bearded dragon and the locusts to feed her bearded dragon! Jess also enjoys art and painting and hopes to do more in the future.
She is currently considering a career in cake decorating.
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