My wife Brenda was involved in a RTA back in 2011;
we were forced off the road by two people escaping
from the police. Apparently they’d been involved in an
armed robbery at a local shop.
They forced us into the fence at the side of the road
causing injuries to myself but mainly to my wife
Brenda. Somewhere in the vehicle she banged the left
hand side of her forehead, at the time nothing was
really visible but within an hour her face looked as
though she’d gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali,
puffed up, swollen. She was taken to the hospital for
Brenda was complaining about severe headaches, they
did brain tests on Brenda and they discharged her the following day. Except for the bruising really there were no initial problems that I noticed, but the next few months changed our lives forever.
In the September we went away on a cruise for seven days from Southampton, One night, I went to bed with Brenda on the ship as normal, the following morning it was as though somebody had come into the room, taken my Brenda and positioned a person who looked like Brenda but wasn’t Brenda.
Brenda was taken from me and put in the small hospital, because they hadn’t got the facilities to decide what the matter with her was.
When arriving back in Southampton, I was told by the captain to look for a hospital where I could take Brenda straight to. During the journey Brenda tried to throw herself out of the car.
We then ended up at a hospital, I think it was in Cheltenham, where we sat for ten and a half hours because Brenda had suffered with grand mal seizures and apparently with these kinds of seizures you get dementia so they couldn’t understand what was going on, they then decided to section her to the mental health act and that was the last time I saw her for nearly seven days.
She was returned to a mental health hospital in Birmingham. When I went to see her on the Saturday they had totally zombified her, to calm her down, and that was it, she was moved from pillar to post, to different hospitals and it was just like my life had finished.
Ask questions because there is help out there, I got in touch with ‘PALs – patient advice and liaison services’ before I knew Headway and ‘Mind’, which were absolutely brilliant, I could ask them questions.
The accident happened six years ago, I am a totally new person caused by this accident of going out for a day and enjoying ourselves. I’d encourage anybody who’s in the same position that I’ve been. Yes there is help out there, I’ve had two breakdowns, probably going onto a third one but there’s help. Ask questions and if needs be demand things, don’t be scared to ask questions because you’re not on your own, there are lots of people out there.
I now work for Headway as a volunteer I work with the Brain Injured people in Erdington, Birmingham, been there for the last six months or so and I really enjoy it. I locked myself away for many weeks, not listening to what friends had said to me about fighting it, you need to be there for your loved ones, because there’s nobody else there for them. You need to stand in their corner and fight for them.
It’s very hard when you’re on your own as I was – you lose friends- they don’t understand. You have to pick yourself up and not let this destroy you. You are the voice of that person. The friends who had stood by me, encouraged me to do what I do now. Headway was my goal. I want to do something for Headway – my goal is to become a counsellor.
I was asked why I didn’t walk away. A lot of people can cope for 6 or 7 months be when it gets really bad, they walk away. I probably love Brenda now more now than I ever did.
Staff at Headway said – when someone you love dies, you mourn for them. Some people mourn forever, but others mourn for a couple of years and then move on. In my situation, I’m mourning but my mourning will never end until something happens to me or Brenda.
At one point, Brenda was incredibly violent towards me to the point I’ve got scars on my body from her attacking me, the brain injury attacking me. So that’s another thing you’ve got to think about. Why should I be put in a position where I could die by the hand of my wife. I’ve been stabbed in the back by Brenda, the back of my hands are scarred from defending myself - but that’s not Brenda, it’s the brain injury. That’s the thing that Brenda became. After she had the fall and broke her hip, she was lying in the hospital bed with her support worker next to her and I thought (this is a horrible thing to say and I feel embarrassed but I need to say it) I didn’t recognise her. I recognised the body and the face but I didn’t recognise her as Brenda. She looked like just another patient in the hospital. I can put my hand on my heart and say that I’ve never felt like this before. That day, I came home and cried my eyes out. It shocked me and that’s the first time I’ve ever felt like that. In six years of looking after her, I’ve never ever felt like that. I looked at her face and thought I don’t know you.
I’m not a carer, I’m a husband. When it first occurs the automatic reaction is to lock yourself away and feel sorry for yourself. Most people who are in this position do the same because you don’t know who is out there to help you. You’re not given any help when you first find out. I went to Kenilworth and on the high street there’s a charity shop and I picked up a brochure and a Headway leaflet dropped out. I started going to Erdington. At first I didn’t feel like I should be there because I didn’t understand what it meant to be a carer. I didn’t see myself as a carer because I didn’t live with her. But then I found the support groups very helpful. I got to help different people and I actually started listening to others because it was what I wanted to hear. Nobody was talking down to me.
I’m a typical bloke who thought you should stand on your own two feet and sort your own problems out, but then I realised that I couldn’t do it.
I’m qualified by life, not qualifications. Sometimes that’s better than reading out of a book because I’ve got hands on experience. You’ve got to learn the official way, but everybody’s different and that person has got to be treated individually. You need to treat people like people and not clients. I worked over at Moseley for a while but it’s very busy there. That’s why I prefer working over at Erdington because I get to work one on one with people. I don’t see a person with an illness. I see a human being. I’m proud of my volunteering; I would love to do it as a job. I’d love to write about my life, perhaps as a pamphlet to give out to people.