When his partner sustained a hypoxic brain injury after attempting suicide, Matthew Nichols said 'it was like a bomb going off in his life.'
If it wasn't for Headway's HATS nurse being there to pick up the pieces, he says he doesn't know how he would have coped.
"Things would have been very different if it wasn't for the HATS nurse. I've told her many times how grateful I am. We wouldn't have coped as a family without her."
In August 2016, Matthew found his partner Jonathan at home moments after he had tried to take his own life. Jonathan's heart had stopped beating and with the help of the 999 operator Matthew performed CPR.
As Jonathan was rushed to hospital Matthew had to stay and answer routine questioning by police, all the while fearing his partner might not make it to hospital alive.
It's the kind of thing you see in films or read in the papers. You never think it will happen to you.
"When I got to the hospital they asked me if I wanted to see him. At first I said no, but I was told I really should. I realised they were really saying I might not get the chance to see him again."
Jonathan was placed in a medical induced coma for 24 hours and given CT scans before being transferred to intensive care. For the next three days, doctors tried unsuccessfully to bring Jonathan around from his coma.
"It was looking very bleak," said Matthew. "The consultants had established there was brain damage, and although they didn't know the extent of it they thought it would be significant.
The mostly likely outcomes were that he would remain in a permanent vegetative state or die.
That day, Matthew and his family were by Jonathan's bedside when they met Alex Power, one of Headway's Acute Trauma Support nurses.
Alex explained that her role involved providing emotional support and practical advice for families and carers in the early stages following brain injury.
Matthew soon realised she would be instrumental in supporting him throughout Jonathan's recovery.
"She was absolutely brilliant," said Matthew. "She was so calm when we were not.
"She said 'given what's happened, you're doing well.' That was the most realistically positive comment we had heard.
"The pragmatic support she was able to offer was invaluable. She gave us advice about what to expect throughout Jonathan's recovery and how long it might take."
Jonathan spent six weeks in a high dependency ward, during which he became extremely agitated and delirious.
It was terrifying, but Alex told us that in context, his behaviour was common. She reassured me that although it was grim, it would pass.
"She helped me to realise other people have been through this before and you're not on your own."
Alex also pointed Matthew to lots of information provided by Headway including its booklets and website to help him understand what Jonathan was going through.
I understand so much more about brain injuries now, how they work and how they affect people.
Jonathan continued to recover on different rehab wards and gradually regained the ability to walk with assistance and talk. He even started to show glimpses of his old personality.
He was discharged in July 2017 and is now recovering at home.
Matthew still regularly meets with specialists to make sure his partner has the care and support he needs going forward. But whenever he doesn't know who to ask for help or where to turn for support, it's the HATS nurse who gets his calls.
It's been so helpful to see her familiar face. It's been great to have that realistic support from her and know that Headway is there.
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