Road traffic accident: Sam

Sam Challenger, from Poole, was 18-years-old when he was involved in a motorcycle accident which left him with a brain injury and a broken back.

Published: February 2016. Date of brain injury: 1996 (young person aged 18 years).

Sam Challenger

In May 1996, I sustained a traumatic brain injury. I was involved on a motorcycle accident and ended up in a coma for 14 weeks. When I awoke, I found I had sustained a broken back, leaving me paralysed, as well as a traumatic brain injury. I had not awoken from my 14 week coma when my parents were informed. I am sure I was told early on, but I only became aware of my situation midway through my 18-month hospital rehabilitation in Poole/Salisbury Spinal Unit as I began to retain small amounts of information.   I think at the time, the doctors gave me as much information as my brain could handle. They would often confide in my parents. I couldn’t believe it when they said I'd never walk again as I was a keen sportsman and played football each week for a semi-professional team and took part in marathons as/when I could. On being told the news, I cried for a little while before realising that crying wouldn't help.

Living independently

I have managed to relearn to communicate and speak and am now living independently. This was an achievement I never thought possible but continue to improve yearly.   I watched Countdown on Channel 4 after my injury and also did the 'Sundial' in the Sun newspaper daily. I believe these contributed in a massive way to my recovery.   Unfortunately, a lot of people who I would have called 'friends' have disappeared, or their lives have moved on and I often feel lonely. My short term memory is also still very poor. I can remember things that happened years ago, like they were yesterday but things that happened yesterday, seem like they were years ago and I have very little or very vague recollection of them. I also struggle with tiredness and irritability.   Since my brain injury, I have been volunteering at a local primary school assisting 7/8year olds with their literacy skills. I have tried on two separate occasions to obtain a qualification from college after my injury however have found I do not have the concentration or ability to retain information as before the accident. I have also been plagued with pressure ulcers since my injury in 1996 and this is set to continue for the remainder of my life due to skin integrity.   I would like to become a primary school teacher as I feel I have a world of knowledge obtained through experiences, but because I can't understand Shakespeare and the like, I am unable to get into a classroom with youngsters. I build a rapport very easily with children and get work done in the specified timescale and have fun learning too. It may not be the 'correct' way, but it is a way in which the children learn by having fun.  

Helping others

My advice to parents who have a child with a brain injury would be give them time to get their point across. You must be prepared to be very patient and play informative games with him/her, because however hard it seems now, they'll get there eventually, but they often need to be pushed! Try my method and watch programs similar to countdown to encourage nerve pathway regeneration, and challenge the person with the brain injury each day. Doing the 'sundial' each day in the paper helped my brain find different routes of thinking.   I have set up my own website trying to encourage knowledge of wheelchair use by introducing and encouraging disability awareness at an early age by including the use of wheelchairs in my series of children's books I have written for 4-8 years of age. Click here to see sam’s children’s books.  
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