NEW RTA: Joe

Joe had a head injury in June 2011 following a road traffic accident.

Published: November 2018. Date of brain injury: June 2011 (young person aged 15 years). I was 15 years old when I had was hit by car whilst on my bike and knocked into a coma. The air ambulance team arrived and the emergency doctor in the team gave me emergency anaesthetic at the road side, which was potentially life-saving for me. I was rushed to hospital by the air ambulance (I was driven). I had a CT scan at hospital, where they found a bleed in my basal ganglia, which affected the right side of my body. I think it also affected my frontal lobe. I was in a coma for around three weeks and had a drip to feed me. I was in the intensive care unit (ITU) for two days then I was moved to the children’s brain trauma ward at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, to recover. My therapy started while I was in hospital. This included:
  • intensive physiotherapy to help physical damage after head injury – I had to learn to walk again.
  • I was seen by occupational therapists (OTs) for post traumatic amnesia.
  • I had speech therapy to learn to talk again.
After five weeks I left hospital. I spent the next six weeks at home learning to walk and talk again before my return to school.

Challenges since the accident

Joe and girlfriend Hayley
School days - Joe and his girlfriend Hayley
Once I had left hospital and gone back to school I found some things particularly challenging after my head injury. My mum contacted the Brain Injury Community Service at The Children's Trust. The team visited me and helped me to overcome some of these things, which included:
  1. Memory skills– remembering what to do and who people were and when I met them. I found it really hard to pass exams in Year 11 as my memory was terrible.
  2. Organising– I found day-to-day tasks and shopping hard. It was hard to remember what I needed and where I needed to be (this ties in with memory issues).
  3. Budgeting– I find it hard deciding what I do and don’t need, and what is a necessity. I also find it tricky organising money and making sure payments are made on the right date and time.
The therapists taught me several things that really helped me to overcome the issues that the injury caused. These include:
  1. Writing lists– I write shopping lists so I don’t forget, and to remind me what I’m doing and when. I can refer to them and make sure I know what is going on. I write lists on my phone and on paper – which one I use depends on the situation and where/when I’m doing it.
  2. Revision cards– I used to write things down on revision cards so I could refer back to them later.
  3. Help from others– my girlfriend Hayley and other people help me with money and working out what I want and what I need.
  4. Apps– I use apps on my phone like calendar and notes so I know what I’m doing and what to buy etc.

Seven years later

I’m now 22 and life is good. I still receive speech therapy due to a slur since my head injury. My social team want to get me seen by an OT again, so they can assess my injuries and help me live independently and freely. I live with my girlfriend, Hayley – we have been together since school. Hayley now acts as my PA, and does jobs for me. This mostly consists of reminding me, and telling me when to do things etc. Hayley will drive me to places but I’m pretty independent. I do all the cooking at home and the housework. If I set my mind to something I can do it.

Developing a love of photography

Joe Wilson
Joe at his Summer 2018 exhibition at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford
In the years since my head injury I have discovered a hobby that I have a real passion for – photography! I’ve had exhibitions the last two summers at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford and the Allen Gallery in Alton. I will be selling my photos at the Alton Christmas Fair, have an exhibition in Basingstoke in the New Year and will show Alton-based photos at the Allen Gallery next summer. I have written a blog that explains how I got into photography, the enjoyment it brings and how it helped after my brain injury. Photography makes me happy – a landscape or flower can make me think ‘wow’. I’ll take a photo and I can cherish that memory forever. I’ve always had a very practical side and this is even more so since my head injury. I did well in my A-level photography and I’ve been proud of my work since with the exhibitions. My next exhibition is titled ‘Alton and Basingstoke: Jane Austen’s towns’ and it will feature images taken in both towns. The photos I am taking are mainly landscapes, but I have also taken some quirky angled architecture based photos of the old buildings in Basingstoke, and some photos of Jane Austen’s old house and local landscapes of where she lived the final part of her life. Photography takes me off into my own world and it’s escapism for me. It clears my mind if I’m angry or upset and it gives me the time to think and calm down. My advice to others would be try and be the best you can be. I had to work really hard. If I was talking to another young person in a similar situation to me I’d say ‘no matter how hard it may seem at first, give it a go’.
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