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'Brain injuries remain largely invisible'

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Without the specialist help he recieved following a traumatic brain injury, Mikey believes he would not be able to continue studying to be a nurse


Back in April 2012, I was involved in a serious road traffic accident whilst on my honeymoon. The minibus my wife and I were being driven in crashed on the highway and overturned, leaving the van on its roof in a roadside verge.

Luckily my wife was left with no major physical injuries, but she was left with plenty psychological ones. I, however, sustained a severe brain injury that has left me with a different personality and many other difficulties that I deal with on a daily basis, such as extreme fatigue and agitation.

This is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and, when it happened, I was kept in a coma as the swelling on my brain subsided to a safe level.

Accoridng to Headway, there are an estimated 1 million people living with the long term effects of a brain injury in the UK. Unlike broken bones or other physical injuries, brain injuries remain largely invisible to the public and the friends and family of the individual affected. This can lead to a multitude of problems socially, cognitively and behaviourally.

“85% of marriages fail after a partner has sustained a brain injury”

Despite the large proportion of people affected by brain injury annually, there is little understanding and very limited resources available to help survivors and their families cope with the effects of living with TBI.

However, there is a special centre based in Cambridge that offers hope to those lucky enough to know of its existence. It’s called the Oliver Zangwill Centre (OZC) and I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few to attend their 18 week specialised brain injury programme. They accept only around 15 people a year on to the programme, this include individuals who have suffered stroke, brain aneurysm, encephalitis and TBI.

The stance is very much “we know what is wrong with you and the struggles you face, let’s now learn how we can get round these problems”.

Different strategies are used for different problems, but the staff at OZC focus on finding a way around the difficulties that arise following brain injury. Be they memory problems, anger or impulsivity, the staff at OZC are armed with strategies to help.

Unfortunately, this highly specialised and uniquely individual approach is not available anywhere else in the UK, which is what separates OZC from any other brain injury therapy services available here. The OZC has visiting scholars who come from the far corners of the globe to see this advanced, successful and highly specialised treatment taking place, and see the positive impact it has on those who attend.

The centre is comprised of an array of professionals, psychologists, SALT, dedicated admin workers, and occupational therapists. From having worked in just about every area of nursing available, I can honestly say that the commitment in every member of staff in OZC is staggering.

Even the hardworking admin office workers play a key role in the clients’rehabilitation, it really is inter-professional working at its finest! 

“Out of 1 million people who are affected by brain injury, why do only 15 people a year get this type of treatment?”

So why, out of 1 million people affected by brain injury, do only 15 get this type of treatment? The answer is simple: with the ever increasing demands on the financial budget of the NHS, funding is becoming more and more difficult.

I can honestly tell you that without the help of the OZC, England would have one less nurse. I am lucky enough to have been taught the tools and strategies I need to achieve my dream of becoming a paediatric nurse. When I return to university in September, I can go back knowing that I have what it takes to succeed in making my dream come true.


Mikey Whitehead is a student nurse studying children’s nursing

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