ABI Week - A Campaign to Remember

Brain Injury Stole My Memories  

Action for Brain Injury Week, or ABI Week, is an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of brain injury and give a voice to those affected. During this week we are sharing information and exploring the subject of memory loss. Chris James is a supporter of Headway Essex who has also suffered a brain injury. Here Chris tells his story and explains how memory problems can affect relationships and daily life.

The Day I Broke My Brain

Sunday the 16th of September 2017, seemed like any other day to me I got up to work in my car valeting business. The plan was to go to the pub later with my mates in Braintree to watch the West Ham vs.Spurs game and have a couple of drinks.

The last thing I can remember that day was feeling hungry, and saying I was going to get a pizza and walking out of the pub door. The next thing I know I was coming round in hospital with my wife by my side. I vaguely remember a nurse being there and talking to me but I didn’t really take it in.

I Could Not Remember How I Got My Brain Injury

It was not until several days had passed that I learned I had had a craniotomy surgery to access the brain underneath and remove a bleed on the brain. I didn’t know how the bleed happened but everyone assumed I had been assaulted.

The Start of My New Life

Over the next 3 months, I was in Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge. This was where my very long recovery journey began. The nurses, doctors, and physio all played a massive part to help me. This was the start of what I now know as my new life.

With this, all going on the burden was on my wife. She had to travel miles to see me, whilst dealing with finances and looking after our 2 children. Along with that, she had to hold down her job as a nurse working nights. I still don’t know how she did it. Luckily a lady from Headway visited my wife in the hospital giving her support and help.

Returning Home

After Addenbrookes, I spent some time at Fen House a brain injury rehabilitation centre. When the day came for me to return home, I was scared. I was going from this bubble out into the real world.

Getting home was nice but scared the hell out of me. Little did I know the hard work started there. The reality kicked in that my life was going to be very different. My outlook on life also changed.

I needed more rehabilitation support and after a long fight and help from Headway, I got a place in rehab at the Homerton University Hospital. I’ve enjoyed my time there and never missed a session. I learned how to cope with life and adapt to the changes in my now different life.

How Brain Injury Affected My Memory

Memory loss is common to head injury patients and stroke patients alike. For me, some of the memories were gone forever. Like when my wife and I went to someone’s a 10th wedding anniversary party. I asked my wife why we were there to which she answered: “We have been asked as we were at their wedding”. I had no recollection of this even when I was shown a picture of us there in the wedding album.

Even now every day is a challenge to remember things like hospital appointments and to take my tablets. I’ve listen to answer phone messages and then forget who phoned and why, so don’t return calls. I have gone out to a meeting and ended up in totally the wrong place. I didn’t even remember what should have been familiar roads on my journey home from the hospital.

To top it all, in the first year out of hospital I forgot our wedding anniversary, but I think I could be forgiven for that, just once!

Techniques to Help My Memory

I have learned techniques like setting reminders on my phone. I rely on my wife with all the hospital and medical stuff. She has to come with me as I can’t take a lot of information in and I forgot it very easily. And I have to ask her questions over and over again.

We have a house calendar in which everything goes on e.g. hospital appointments, golf, meeting friends for lunch. I write myself notes as well – I just have to remember to read them!

Giving Something Back

My journey is not over but I am on the road to recovery and adapting to my new life. I now want to do something to help Headway Essex. This is because they support people with Acquired Brain Injury in the area I live in.

This week I will be holding my 2nd golf day to raise money for them. Last year we raised £1000, with 16 friends. This year was going to be bigger and better but then Covid-19 happened. At one point we thought it would not go ahead but we have now arranged the event within COVID-secure guidelines.

The event will be in ABI Week on October 1st. there will be 28 players and we hope to raise over £3000 for Headway Essex.

A Sobering Thought

Just back to the 16th of September 2017; they uncovered CCTV footage that proves I was assaulted. Although I have seen the CCTV and I can see it’s me, I still have no memory of it. I received compensation but money will never replace my old life and it will never give me back the memories that I’ve lost.

The Impact of Memory Loss

In January 2020, Headway UK launched a survey into the effects of memory loss, to be completed by brain injury survivors. The survey was completed by 2,150 participants, providing a large sample to gain an accurate picture of the difficulties memory problems can cause. These findings highlight the vital importance of raising awareness of this often hidden effect of brain injury.

Please find the time to read the impact of memory loss on people with brain injury report to help raise awareness and care for those inflicted.

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