Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries


After a life-changing injury people may wonder how they will ever be able adjust to their new way of life. People we talked with often found support from various sources including their family, friends and work colleagues, other people who had experienced a similar injury and from national and local support organisations. They also took on the role of supporting other injured people.
Support from family, friends and work colleagues
People often said that their family and friends were invaluable in providing the daily practical and emotional support they needed for recovering and to managing the challenges they faced after injury. Christopher said his wife had been “instrumental” in his recovery from his brain injury after a ski-ing accident. Family were often at their relative’s hospital bedside and were told by the doctors what the implications of the injury might be. They sometimes flew out to the country where the injury had taken place. After Daniel’s brain injury his family and his girlfriend spent every day he was in hospital helping him to learn to talk and walk again, which he said had spurred him on to recover.
After coming out of hospital family and friends helped with many day-to-day things, including memory problems, personal care, using the telephone, finances, mobility and by being an advocate to make sure they got the things they needed.
It was common for people to say that their family and friends had helped them emotionally when the challenges of recovering from a life-changing injury led them to sometimes be depressed, anxious, angry and frustrated. Simon’s friends had a “can do” attitude and had helped him to rebuild his confidence during his recovery from the spinal injury he had when he was twenty-five. After her mild brain injury, some of Jane’s friends and family were not as understanding as she would have liked them to have been, but she greatly appreciated a friend who helped her to develop strategies to manage her anxiety. Some people also said that they had tried to give strength to their family or friends by reassuring them they could recover from their injury.
Some people’s families had received professional emotional support after their injury.
People also received support from work colleagues. Brian was “over the moon” when his ex-work colleagues bought him an electric wheelchair when he first came out of hospital. Bryan hadn’t told many people about his second head injury. One day it all became too much to deal with and he broke down in tears in front of his employer, who was very supportive.
Support organisations and groups
National organisations were often an important source of support to people after life-changing injury. Sometimes people were told about them by the medical staff when they were still in hospital and the support they provided was often seen as important in their recovery. Some of the problems they were helped with, included finances, legal issues, transport and mobility problems, and respite care.
Kenneth is a volunteer gardener at the Thrive charity. Having something to focus on physically and mentally helps him to cope with his brain injury.
It was common for people to say that talking to others who had experienced a similar injury was invaluable. Talking to people who understood what they were going through and hearing how they had coped after a life-changing injury had provided them reassurance, encouragement and support. Support organisations like the Spinal Injuries Association provide people with the support of a mentor, someone who has been there and can talk to them about their experience of injury. Some carers went along to local groups with their relative and they also gained support from talking to others at these groups. A pub psychology group helped Juri after his vision was impaired. Run by a psychologist, people talk about their problems at the group and are given ideas about how to cope.
Not everyone felt they needed to attend a support group or organisation. Both Christopher and Bridget had brain injuries and initially felt they couldn’t relate to other people at Headway who had more severe injury effects than them. It was only when Bridget’s friend also had a brain injury three years later that she went along to another Headway group and now she chairs it.

Sometimes people had got involved with local support groups and organisations to support others who had similar life-changing injuries. Barrie volunteers at his local Headway support group where one of the things he does is help people with mobility problems use the computer. Others took part in fundraising and research.

Last reviewed May 2019.



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