Lorraine and Kevin Pratt

Lorraine Pratt and her husband Kevin

"Kevin was my life before, and he is now"

by Lorraine and Kevin Pratt

Before his brain injury Kevin Pratt was a confident, family-oriented sportsman.

But after he contracted viral encephalitis in 2003, he could no longer walk which sent him into a deep depression. When he contracted the virus again in 2015, he lost half of the progress he had made over the last decade. Lorraine Pratt had to learn to love and care for a new man and became a new person in the process.

In June 2002 Kevin Pratt received a bone marrow transplant from his brother after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. He recovered and went back to work as a prison officer. But one day he suddenly fell ill and stopped breathing. He was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain.

I've had to learn to love a different man - Lorraine Pratt

Kevin spent 11 months in hospital and although he could understand everything that was being said to him, he could not respond.

Lorraine said: "It was very frustrating for him. He couldn't speak but he could swear and it was clear as day. It was very difficult for me to deal with because Kevin never swore.

"We had stickers on everything, it was all about recognition. You could show him a picture of a ball and he didn't know how to say 'ball', but he would make the action of throwing.

"It's almost like when you've got a child going to infant school using flash cards and repetition.

"I've got all the qualifications but no certificate to prove it. Over the years I've learnt what works and what doesn't. It's extremely stressful."

Although Lorraine and Kevin have adapted to their new way of life, they both know they are not the same people they were before.

"I've had to learn to love a different man. There's an awful lot of Kevin still there but there's big chunks missing.

"He knows things aren't the same. But he also knows he's got me, he's got the children, so he knows he's very much loved and supported within the family unit and I think that's important.

"He had terrible depression in the beginning and very dark moods.

"It's changed him, it's changed me and it's changed us as a family unit.

"But we're a very positive family. It could be a lot worse, he's still here."

Lorraine thinks her personality has helped get her through.

"I'm bloody-minded, I'm not a person to give up.

"I took my marriage vows very seriously. Kevin was my life before and he is now.

"I had people saying 'you're not going to be able to do this. He's going to be X,Y and Z.'

"I would say 'I'll prove you wrong, I'll show you' and that's what's got me through."

Not only did Kevin become a new person after his brain injury, Lorraine changed too.

"I'm more mellow. I've had to be mum, dad and counsellor, having to put me to one side.

"I was trying to be everything for everybody because I'm that sort of person.

"It's not easy and it's not necessarily the life I would have chosen but I have Kevin in my life and that's what I want."

Lorraine has remained strong in her role as a carer but she says she wouldn't have coped if it wasn't for Headway Portsmouth.

She said: "From the first morning they made us feel so welcome, they talked to Kevin like he was Joe Bloggs.

"Kevin was always very confident, very much a leader. He lost all that after his brain injury and they brought him out of himself.

"At first I wasn't sure the carers group was for me. Now I can't miss our Thursday morning meet up.

"Without the support group for the carers I don't know what I would have done, I would have been in a very dark place."

"Hand on heart I don't know what we would have done without Headway. They've done so much for us."