The effects of a brain injury can have an impact on different aspects of a survivor’s life, including employment prospects.
I have always worked and provided for my family and not being able to do that anymore has been extremely upsetting for me.
It started off as an ordinary day at work in 2017 for Spencer, but as the day went on, he began to feel unwell.
Spencer, who was working as an estate agent at the time, said: “I felt like I was drunk, I thought I was going to fall down the stairs.”
He went home to rest but was experiencing persistent headaches and sickness. His speech also began to slur and his face became swollen.
The next day he made an appointment with his doctor who told him what he was experiencing was a stroke. Spencer was rushed to hospital where he spent the next three weeks in a neurology ward.
“My first thought was: ‘I’m going to die’,” he said. “I was so worried about my kids and my wife, I just needed to know they would be ok if I wasn’t around. I tried to stay strong but deep down I was terrified.”
Prior to his brain injury, Spencer spent a lot of his time with his family, playing and watching sports with his two children and taking their dog on long walks along the beach.
When he wasn’t enjoying family time, he’d be working as an estate agent.
He said: “Being an estate agent was my dream job and something I’d wanted to do for a long while. I’d only had the job for a few months and I was over the moon about it. Everything had fallen into place for me.”
Unfortunately for Spencer, like many other brain injury survivors, he was unable to return to work due to the effects of his injury and the company he worked for had no choice but to let him go.
Spencer said: “My wife had to break the news to me that I couldn’t go back to work. I was a mix of emotions, so upset and angry.
I’d gone from being a working man, providing for my family to someone who no longer had a job. It was an extremely difficult thing to have to come to terms with and it had a negative impact on my mental health.
By Spencer’s own admission, this began to put a strain on his relationship with his wife, Clare.
“My wife was and still is my rock, but of course it caused challenges within our relationship as we were worrying where we would get the money to pay our bills and feed our kids,” he said.
Spencer received financial support from Citizens Advice and Clare returned to work a short while after his injury in order to provide for the family.
He also found support at his local Headway group in Sussex.
Spencer said: “When I left Southampton General Hospital I wasn’t given any information about brain injury or where to find help. But my wife did some research and came across Headway West Sussex.”
The charity’s Support and Information Officer, Lyn Henwood, visited the family to speak about the services on offer within the community.
“Lyn was truly amazing,” said Spencer. “I’ve been to the group on several occasions now and everyone there listens to me, it’s been really helpful. I can speak to people who understand what I’m going through.”
Despite his challenges, he is eager to return to work within the next few years.
He said: “To be truly honest, life right now is not great for me. I have always been a very proud man who has provided for his family and being unable to work is very upsetting. I just want to get back into employment and live a normal life.
“At the moment I’m in a lot of pain because I’m having steroid injections and electrical stimulation treatment to help with nerve damage.
“But I also recognise that things could’ve been a lot different for me and I’ve been lucky. I’m a survivor and I’ve been given the opportunity to carry on living and to share my story. Not everyone has that chance.
I will not give up – I will go back to work and be successful in whatever I decide to do next. My brain injury is not going to hold me back.
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