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My Brain Injury and Me

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08 March 2023

Part 1

Introduction and Early Years

Hi, I’m Sam. I’m 28 years old from Chadderton, Oldham and I was born with a brain injury. I was 6 weeks premature. My entrance into the world was complicated. My mum was rushed to hospital by emergency ambulance but, when she arrived, there were no doctors on the ward. The hospital had to arrange for an emergency surgeon to deliver me via C-Section.

As soon as I was born, I was taken straight to a specialist ward for babies, where it was discovered I had suffered an Intraventricular Haemorrhage, which means that the ventricles in my brain bled, my brain did not get enough oxygen and produced too much fluid. I was also diagnosed with epilepsy and received treatment for it up until I was aged 6 or 7. This is something I fortunately grew out of and I no longer require treatment for.

How My Brain Injury Affects Daily Life

Since I was born with my brain injury, my day-to-day living is all I have ever known, however, it does not come without its difficulties. Many people can struggle with daily living activities but having a brain injury adds an extra layer of challenges, which may not be immediately apparent to an onlooker.

On a day-to-day basis, the difficulties I experience can affect me in different ways. I have problems with cognition, specifically memory loss, which can significantly impact my ability to remember more than two things at once from a list of maybe four or five. Due to my memory loss, I have had to develop strategies over the years to help me remember things. I use reminders on a calendar or on my phone. I also make use of lists, whether it’s on my phone on an app, or on a Monday-Sunday whiteboard for meals, which helps me with planning and organising and helps me stop stressing or feeling overwhelmed thinking about what to cook for that day. If I forget a few things – perhaps an item on my shopping list, someone’s name, or forget to go somewhere at a certain time, it can leave me frustrated and increases my stress levels.

I can be easily distracted and become overwhelmed very quickly, especially during activities which require multitasking and activities which are more complicated, such as cooking. If an activity has many different elements and requires sustained concentration, such as cooking a large meal with lots of ingredients, concentration and attention are difficult to maintain, especially if there are additional distractions like a television, phone call or someone talking to me at the same time. If I am cooking a complex meal, for example, I keep distractions to an absolute minimum. I turn off the TV, and if I have family or friends round, I politely ask them not to talk too loud so I can concentrate and focus more an cooking. This helps me to feel less stressed.

Another difficulty I experience is the processing of information, specifically the speed at which I can process verbal information. This difficulty is heightened if I am in particularly noisy environments or if someone is speaking too quickly. The amount of information my brain is receiving can become overwhelming for me to process. Being in a large social group with background music, for example, it can be really difficult to hold conversations and process information.

All the difficulties I have mentioned can lead to becoming fatigued very quickly. This is a common problem for people with brain injuries on a day-to-day basis. How much I have done in that week, what my stress levels have been like, if I have been in new or unfamiliar situations or if my weekly routine has changed can all affect how mentally fatigued I become. If I attempt to do too much during the week, this leaves me too fatigued to function properly for days. This can lead to me being bed bound and unable to maintain activities of daily living. The only way to resolve this burnout is to reduce cognitive loads, rest and recharge.

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