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Jake Elliott

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Jake Elliott

Jake Elliott

My brain injury brought me and my girlfriend closer together

Maintaining a positive romantic relationship after a brain injury can be difficult, even more so for young couples who are still getting to know each other.

The common behavioural, cognitive and emotional effects of a brain injury can often act as a barrier when trying to salvage the relationship that existed beforehand.

Some relationships may collapse over time, whilst others may immediately break down following a spouse's brain injury.

But not all relationships are doomed to fail after a brain injury.

Headway's study into relationships after brain injury found that 35% of brain injury survivors reported that their relationship with their partner had strengthened after their injury, with 38% of partners responding in kind.

18-year-old Jake Elliott and his girlfriend, Katelyn Southwick, demonstrate how relationships can not only survive, but thrive, following brain injury.

Jake said: "My injury has definitely brought me and my girlfriend closer together and solidified our bond. We know that if we can survive the devastating and life-changing effects of a brain injury, we can survive anything."

Jake and Katelyn's whirlwind romance began in 2018 when they met at a summer camp.
Just six months after the pair began dating, Jake was involved in a near-fatal road traffic accident while travelling as a passenger on his way to college with friends.

"I still remember that day so vividly," said Jake. "I was on the phone to Katelyn and I told her I'd ring her back as soon as I got to college. I never rung and the next time she saw me I was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and covered in wires."

Following the accident, Jake was rushed to the critical care unit at Walsgrave Hospital where he spent ten days in an induced coma on life support and a further three months in hospital recovering. He had sustained two bleeds on his brain and a collapsed lung.

Katelyn was by his bedside every day.

"She was there every step of the way," recalled Jake. "Katelyn's just been incredibly strong and supportive throughout the whole thing. I feel incredibly lucky to have found someone as caring and understanding as she is, especially at such a young age."

Jake is now forced to live with the complex, fluctuating and often hidden effects of his brain injury, including debilitating fatigue, difficulties concentrating and behavioural issues.

He said: "The effects of my brain injury have undoubtedly put a strain on my relationship with Katelyn. But thanks to a strong support system made up of family and friends, as well as the help of professionals such as Headway, we have been able to maintain a healthy and loving relationship.

"The Headway website in particular was a real saving grace for myself, Katelyn and the rest of my family during the early stages of my recovery. The factsheets and e-booklets helped to educate us on the effects of brain injury and provided essential coping strategies."

While in the coma following the accident, Jake would not respond to the commands of the nurses, but instead, would only listen to what Katelyn had to say.

He said: "Apparently the nurses would ask me to do simple movements like lift my leg or give them a thumbs up and I was completely unresponsive to them. But as soon as Katelyn said 'Come on, Jake. Do as the nurses say', I'd willingly respond.

"According to my parents I would twitch and slightly open my eyes whenever Katelyn walked in to the room or spoke to me.

"My first words were even yes, no and Katelyn."

Jake's Dad, Simon Elliott, said: "Katelyn is a real key factor in Jake's recovery and progress. She's been an incredible support not only for Jake, but for the rest of the family too.

"We can't thank her enough for everything she's done for our son."

The couple even spent their first Valentine's Day together in the hospital.

"It was a really special and romantic day for the both of us. It wasn't your typical Valentine's Day, but it will definitely be one to remember," recalled Jake.

"We spent the night eating strawberries and chocolate and reflecting on how crazy and frightening the past few weeks had been.

"I even managed to write Katelyn a card. I had to ask for help from my mum but it was still a huge achievement to be able to write for the first time since the injury."

The couple have big plans for the future, both personally and in their relationship.

Katelyn is hoping to attend university in September to study Paramedic Science while Jake plans to take a year off to recover and learn how to cope with the effects of his brain injury. With time he is hoping to accept his unconditional offer to study Sport and PE at The University of Northampton.

They are even taking some well deserved time away from the stresses of daily life this summer as they jet off to Tuscany with Jake's family.

 

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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.

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