Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Attitudes to injury and life afterwards

People we interviewed said their injuries had changed their lives in both positive and negative ways. Whilst they often had ongoing challenges that caused them to alter the way they lived, many reflected on how the accident or injury had led them to re-evaluate their lives and appreciate things they had taken for granted before. One man with brain injury (Interview 23) said that he has experienced more highs than lows.
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In the early days, people wondered why it happened to them, with some wondering if “it was God’s will” (Kenneth). Sometimes they wanted to give up because they felt they were going to be a burden to their families. But they acknowledged that feeling depressed and down was a natural reaction to what they had been through, even though these feelings made life harder.
Sometimes people discussed a turning point when they realised their lives weren’t over. Some felt happy to be alive, and luckier than others whose injuries were more serious than their own. They felt they could learn from their injury experiences and found the good that came from them.
People resolved to recover from their injuries, and felt they owed it to themselves and their families to do so. Barrie’s mum died during his recovery, but he was glad she knew he was alive before she died. Recovering was described as a constant struggle that didn’t mean becoming free of the injury; Raymond described it as a “life sentence”.
The problems caused by their injuries often left people feeling frustrated. As a man (Interview 23) who had a brain injury said, “Why have I got to stop alcohol for the rest of my life because of what happened to me? That’s why I get angry sometimes, and frustrated, and take it out on someone else”. People’s lives now often involved managing new challenges' pain, seizures, memory problems, bladder, bowl and skin care. Life could take more effort, planning and thought than before.
There was often some tension between thinking about the person they had been before the injury, and the person they had become. But they thought perhaps they were idealising their old selves or “looking at the past through rose coloured spectacles” (Christopher) and should accept their changed lives. However, this was not an easy thing to do.
Some people said they “got used to” (Kenneth) their injuries and the permanent changes they had brought to their lives. But they also had to get used to the fact that they had survived. As Bryan said, “I had to get used to the fact that I was able to live for the rest of my life”. Sometimes people felt that being injured had changed them for the better. Some talked about finding faith in God or having their faith strengthened. Others felt they now had different opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise, and that life was less stressful and simpler now. People said they became more positive and carefree, didn’t worry as much, were less easily angered and less concerned about putting plans in place for the future. As Wesley said, “If something’s going to happen to you, it happens”. But other people said they had become worried about things, especially safety.

Being injured caused people to examine their lives and reconsider their priorities. Sometimes their views on the importance of their careers changed and they decided they wanted to have a better work-life balance. As Ed said, “I’m going to have a more balanced life: home, work, community”. Having a life-changing injury often motivated people to give something back and try and improve other people’s lives. They became involved in charities, raising money or supporting other people who had been injured. Some did this on a small scale and others said they did not do it at all.

Last reviewed May 2019.


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