Nicola Bird Blunt speaks to us about living with her brain injury and offers her advice to others who may be struggling.
“In November 2009 I fell backwards down the stairs at home and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) by banging the back of my head so hard on the hard floor my brain lurched forward. I damaged the front right lobe of the brain.
I then spent five months in hospital, one in the North Staffs Neurology ward and four in the Haywood Rehabilitation hospital learning to walk and use my left-hand side again as the damage to the right lobe had affected my left-hand mobility.
It was a scary time, and my family were told that they weren’t sure I would survive the several hour craniotomy and brain surgery. Thankfully, I did and am now leading a normal, happy life thanks to the treatment I received from the nurses and physiotherapists.
Life changed certainly; I now have epilepsy which I take medication for to control the seizures. I lost my sense of smell as I damaged my olfactory nerve in the fall; which is not a major loss; and I have a permanent shunt in my head to reduce fluid pressure on my brain. I suffer from fatigue and short-term memory loss but can manage these side effects by effective sleep patterns and writing everything down.
I went on to achieve a pharmaceutical qualification and change careers from retail to the pharmaceutical industry. I now work full-time as a tele sales advisor. I have full mobility and accept my memory loss as a side effect out of my control.
Life can go on as normal after a TBI. Headway is a great organization, there was lots of information I didn't know before my accident and Headway helped me to learn this.
They offer help when needed and give practical information.
Headway also helped me integrate back into the community and return to work full-time as I worked as a volunteer in one of their charity shops. This was invaluable to me for returning to 'normality' which I sometimes doubted I would after the injury.
There is life after a TBI. I am now living an energetic, busy, content life with normal relationships at all levels. Don't give up hope, ever. It takes time and patience but there is a way to manage and cope with a TBI, so it does not affect your quality of life.
TBI are hidden injuries and are not always possible to immediately recognise so I would like people to understand this and not judge too harshly if memory is a problem. I’m not being thick! This really is a hidden disability!
Talk to an occupational therapist over concerns, join other groups for people with similar injuries so you can discuss things with others. Learn ways to manage the symptoms. I write everything down or immediately put into my phone. I manage my fatigue by exercise and good night’s sleep. Reach out for help when it seems overwhelming.
I fell down the stairs after I had been drinking and was lucky I survived. I have since joined AA and have never been happier!”
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