Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries


Age at interview: 34

Brief outline: Four years ago, after being involved in a car accident, Jane was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.

Background: Jane currently works in retail and is single and lives with flatmates. She is from New Zealand, but decided to move to London after her brain injury. She describes her Ethnic Background as New Zealand/European.

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Jane was driving her car when it was hit from behind. She remembers the “forward and backward sensation” and thinking, “This is quite bad”. She describes feeling dazed and very confused as she drove to A & E and was treated for whiplash. Her GP later said she probably had concussion and referred her to the concussion clinic for assessment by occupational therapists, neurologists and neuropsychologists. 
It was several weeks before Jane was diagnosed with a mild brain injury after an assessment by a neuropsychologist indicated that she had memory problems. Jane’s father also sustained a severe traumatic brain injury several years before her. His injury had a significant impact on his behaviour and personality. She thinks her family found it difficult to understand her experience because it didn’t seem as serious as her father’s. 
After her accident, Jane was fatigued and her sleep pattern was disrupted. She had problems remembering things and remembering people. She found it difficult to concentrate, especially in loud noise, and felt overwhelmed at work. 
Three months after her injury, Jane was encouraged to take a month off work by an occupational therapist. Later, she was let go from her job and said she experienced a “loss of identity” because she “had always been quite career driven”, so it was “strange to suddenly have nothing at all”.
Jane worked with a counsellor and an occupational therapist (OT). Her OT helped her to structure her day and get into a good sleeping pattern. Cutting out sugar, caffeine and alcohol also helped Jane to cope with fatigue, which still significantly affects her life. Her rehabilitation was paid for by a national accident insurance scheme, which everyone in New Zealand pays into. 
Some of Jane’s friends were not as understanding as she would have liked them to have been. She feels they did not appreciate how fatigued she was and how much she needed to rest. She had to turn down invitations to parties because they were held at times when she knew she would be tired. As a result she lost friends. Since her injury she has made new friends and believes these are good friendships. 
Jane has now moved from New Zealand to London and is looking for a job. She is reluctant to tell people that she has had a brain injury because she fears that might reduce her chances of becoming employed. She hopes that travelling and living overseas will demonstrate to employers that “she is fine”. 
She summed up her experience saying that after injury “can be pretty good. I’m not a hundred percent there yet, but it can be good”.



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