About Brain Injury
Brain injury is one of the fastest growing disabilities in the UK. It can happen in seconds but the effects last a lifetime.
Headway Thames Valley work with adults of all ages helping them live with brain injury. We provide a range of services and support whether it’s at Brunner Hall, our Centre in Henley-on-Thames, or through our Courses and Therapy Groups. If you can’t find what you are looking for or have any more questions, please contact us.
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Acquired Brain Injury covers all situations in which a brain injury has occurred since birth.
There are two types of acquired brain injury:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) which occur after trauma to the head (head injury) following a road traffic accident, fall or assault, for example. Non- traumatic injuries caused by a stroke, brain haemorrhage, tumour and encephalitis, to name a few.
Most people with an Acquired Brain Injury will experience at least some cognitive, physical, emotional or behavioural symptoms, the effects of which can be wide ranging and long lasting depending upon a number of factors such as the type, location and severity of the injury.
people suffer some form of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) in the Thames Valley each year
people admitted to hospital with a brain injury in Oxfordshire every day
higher risk of suicide among brain injury survivors
Life after brain injury
My name is Sam Mason, I’m 30 years old and I live in Wokingham, Berkshire. I lived a fairly normal life, married to my wonderful wife Grace (without whom I wouldn’t be here). I had a fairly intense job of assistant Quantity Surveyor which gave me a lot of anxiety as I had no experience or training, but that was helped by my great manager and friend Pete, my work colleagues, and family Nick (Dad), Mary (Mum) and Matt (Brother).
I was basically happy however, all that changed in a second. Grace had gone away to Goa, India for a month to complete a course on Yoga Teaching. Within that month it was very stressful as we had our main contract to complete at work, plus we were moving to a new house both of which caused a lot of stress and anxiety. So when Grace got home I had been in the new house for one week and wanted to go and celebrate the new house and seeing her again.
We went out for a nice dinner and some drinks, some turning into quite a lot. She hadn’t been drinking (luckily) and offered to take me and a couple of friends home and went off to collect the car. During this time one of my friends challenged me to a race back to the car, so we started sprinting. After a short while I saw Grace ahead and realised I was racing her too. As I got closer to her I decided to spin on the spot to turn and gloat that I was beating her in a race she was unaware of, as I did I tripped on my back leg, breaking my fall for my body with my head.
I’m still unclear about what happened next, but as I understand it we went to A&E, who told me I was OK and to go home though I had blood coming out of my head and was being sick. The next morning we called 111 as I had no hearing in one ear and was getting quite hot, they said I’ll be OK too. That night Grace called them again as she could tell something was wrong. We went into the hospital and she managed to convince a Doctor she works with to give me a scan, they agreed and shortly after came out to tell Grace that I was being rushed up to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford for an emergency operation. I was in a coma for two weeks, and when I woke up discovered I was missing the front part of my skull from eye lid to top of head and ear to ear. I remember being very angry while in hospital which I was in for around nine weeks.
The anger was strange as it was anger no matter what feeling it should have been e.g. sadness, happiness etc. The injury at first affected my ability to walk as it was affecting my balance and my psychology was also affected to the point I wanted to go up to the roof and jump.
I received really good physio and psycho therapies through the Neuro Rehabilitation team (CBNRT) at Berkshire Healthcare hospital, who helped me to walk again and cope with all the pessimistic and horrible thoughts. Through them I got to meet the Headway Thames Valley team.
The amazing Headway Thames Valley team, some of whom have sustained brain injury themselves, such as the manager, Jamie, was the most incredible thing for me to help get back to normal. This was not just because of all the advice and activities presented by them but also by knowing and befriending others in a similar state to me, it was at that point which I no longer felt alone in the world, that I was the only one going through this, and actually there are some worse off than me.
I now have a new titanium skull which I am actually proud of having, it shows (with a huge scar) that I have been through hell but come back fighting. And like a phoenix have maybe come back with a better life than before. Though I am still unable to drive or enjoy a drink and have some medication to carry on taking for a while, every cloud does in fact have a silver lining. I am physically stronger than I have ever been, as my amazing trainer, Max showed me the proper technique in lifting weights while at my long term health and fitness gym which I am so happy about. I also now have my own office at work as I do still find it difficult to concentrate, let alone with other people around me.
One more thing I am now trying to do is rekindle my relationships with friends, as I have found out I wasn’t communicated with as people were unaware that I wanted to see them, this made me feel very low but now I realise they didn’t not want to see me they were just worried. My advice from my own experience to people who know someone with brain injury, just stay in contact with them and basically treat them as normal, help spread the understanding of brain injury as Headway Thames Valley are doing!
The impact of any Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) depends on a range of factors, including the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual.
Common long term effects of ABI include:
- Cognitive impairment (difficulties with memory, attention and other thinking skills)
- Sensory changes (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell)
- Communication difficulties (expressing and understanding language)
- Behaviour changes (depression, anxiety, personality changes, irritability and social inappropriateness)
Behavioural, emotional and cognitive problems are the most significant lasting effects of brain injury. Even minor injuries can produce lasting and traumatic problems. As no two injuries result in the same set of disabilities it is important that each person receives an individual programme of care and rehabilitation which is available at Headway Thames Valley.
“I have no memory of the accident at all and no post-accident memory for the first couple of months - my memory is still very odd and I don’t think it will ever be the same but I cope and I have found ways to cope not only on my own but with the support of Headway Thames Valley.”
Life after brain injury
Dennis was taken by air ambulance to the John Radcliffe where he spent several weeks in intensive care. He had head injuries and a broken leg. When he regained consciousness he was moved to The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where he remained for over 8 months. Unfortunately, he also suffered a stroke in hospital. Eventually, he was moved to the Neuro Rehabilitation Unit in Salisbury for two months. Amanda had to take early retirement to look after Dennis.
The year when Dennis was in hospital was very difficult for Amanda and Dennis’s family. Amanda was reluctant to drive at first and was having to get trains and buses daily to visit Dennis in hospital. On leaving hospital Dennis’s NHS support came to an end after several weeks.
Dennis returned home and continued to make improvements, however, his brain injury had left him with vision problems, meaning he found reading anything very difficult, including everyday things such as using a mobile phone or the TV remote control. Dennis struggles with his memory and with no feeling in his left arm cutting food is difficult.
Dennis and Amanda were referred to Headway Thames Valley by their solicitor who specialised in brain injuries. In late 2019, Dennis started coming to Headway Thames Valley Activity Centre one day per week where he enjoyed having banter again with the other guys attending. The minibus journeys to and from the Centre and chatting with Support Worker Robert were also very calming for him.
When Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns took hold, Headway Thames Valley had to suspend activities at the Centre and other face-to-face and in person services but quickly put alternative activities in place.
Dennis and Amanda both got involved with the online video calls and groups really enjoying the football discussion groups and quizzes and meeting the other clients who were also on the calls. This helped Dennis to maintain a regular routine and sense of purpose which was very important and enabled Amanda to be involved.
Headway Thames Valley helps give Dennis structure, routine and a friendly place in which to take part in activities such as Tai Chi and Upcycling. He is happy in surroundings where people understand him and he can meet others in similar situations.
Attending Headway Thames Valley services both online and in person over the last two years have helped Dennis to improve in a number of areas including mobility, coordination and memory as well as boosting well-being and preventing isolation or deterioration of his condition.
Living with Brain Injury Courses
The eight week course aims to provide a greater understanding to people of their brain injury and how this is impacting or might impact their daily lives, relationships and ability to cope in different situations. Plus an opportunity to meet others who have had a similar experience.
Brain Injury Support Groups
Headway Thames Valley run a number of Brain Injury Support Groups across Berkshire and South Oxfordshire. The Support Groups are ideal to meet other people facing similar challenges following an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
Clinical Neuro-Rehab Service
Our Clinical Neurological Rehabilitation Service is here to help if you’re experiencing the effects of an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Brunner Hall is Headway Thames Valley’s hub in Henley-on-Thames and is a welcoming and safe space for people who have experienced a brain injury to spend time with their peers as well as our team of qualified staff and volunteers.