A terrifying moment can change a life

Suffering a traumatic head injury is a terrifying ordeal, with serious implications for the way we live. When something catastrophic happens to our brains, such as a car accident, stroke or physical assault, our personalities become rearranged.

Assault is the third most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI), after falls and road traffic collisions. TBI can lead to multiple long-term physical, cognitive and emotional problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This was the case for James, who was tragically assaulted outside a nightclub and sustained a minor brain injury, following a celebratory night out with his friends on his birthday. James was attacked from behind and struck with a fist in the side of his face/jaw. He lost his balance, hit his head on a wall, losing consciousness and falling and hitting his head and forehead above the nose on the kerb edge.

Approximately one million people per year attend UK Emergency Departments with a head injury. Roughly 900,000 of these people will only have sustained a brief period of unconsciousness or no unconsciousness at all.

Many of these people will have sustained a minor brain injury. They may experience post-concussion symptoms for a number of days or weeks and a significant number will have persistent, long-term difficulties. Services to help these people are limited in most areas of the UK.

Following the assault, James was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome described as “a complex disorder in which various symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness, last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion” and fatigue.

Consequently, James suffered physical, cognitive and psychological problems; some of these symptoms were headaches, poor balance, difficulty closing his eyes, poor short-term memory and poor sleep. It is evident the assault was traumatic and it was affecting his daily functioning and mental wellbeing.

The effects of moderate to severe TBI can be long lasting or even permanent. While recovery and rehabilitation are possible, most people face life challenges that will require them to adapt and adjust to a new reality, including possible physical or mental disability. Challenges with work and completing simple tasks can be much more difficult than before the injury.

Through its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is funded by powerLottery, the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) provides people within the electrical sector with a wide range of support services to help them overcome any physical, emotional and financial challenges at hand. The charity sourced and funded the support of an occupation therapist who visited James and completed a functional and vocational assessment. The EIC were then able to assist James to recommend support options for his employer to consider in relation to the new environmental, psychological and cognitive demands James now required assistance with.

The EIC also arranged for James to attend therapy sessions focusing on trauma support and learning methods of coping with his experienced cognitive and physical changes. He found the therapy very supportive and the sessions have enabled him to manage his newfound experiences with everyday life better.

James unfortunately has sustained a nasty scar from the assault above his eye, which he will have to live with as a reminder of the traumatic event for the rest of his life. But he is learning to cope with this everyday visual reminder.

James commented: “Although dealing with my scar is an on-going issue that’s really never going to go away due to it being my eye line, the therapy sessions have helped me understand how to manage my anxiety and insecurities around it and my perception on how people see it and me.

“Before my sessions with the therapist I was an unpracticable mess, my temper was short and my mood extremely low. I took this out on my friends and family, and I was not a nice person to be around. The therapy has enabled me to open up and we have walked through each of my issues step by step, I was then able to start to face my insecurities on my own in a positive way.”

In spite of James experiencing a traumatic event which has affected him cognitively, emotionally and psychically, he is improving and feeling stronger in himself – this is fundamental for the EIC and its support objective and philosophy.

Thanks to support from the industry, every year the Electrical Industries Charity is able to offer hundreds of its industry colleagues both practical and emotional support during their time of need. 

For more information on the help available, or to show your support through the EIC’s powerLottery, please visit: www.electricalcharity.org