ABI Week - A Life Rewritten - Ben's Story

ABI Week 2024 – A Life ReWritten

This year the theme of Action for Brain Injury (ABI) week is ‘A Life Rewritten’ raising awareness of how life changes after an acquired brain injury. In this blog we catch up with Ben and tell his story of a life rewritten after a brain injury.

Ben’s Story

Ben was just 21 year’s old when on the morning of the 22nd August 2017, he was driving to Stansted airport on his way to a Parkour (free running) event abroad. That fateful morning his car veered off the road on a corner and crashed into a tree. A passing driver found Ben 56 minutes later and called for an ambulance.

Ben spent the next 144 days in hospitals and rehabilitation centres, before he was able to go home.

After the physical wounds had healed, Ben was left with a traumatic brain injury and many effects of his brain injury were hidden. His personality had changed and he struggled to feel any emotions (happy or sad). His memory was poor and he struggled with overwhelming fatigue, as his brain had to work so hard to do the simplest of tasks.

Finding Headway Essex

Whilst in hospital his family heard about Headway and when Ben returned home, they got in touch with Headway Essex.

Ben knew he was struggling with the hidden effects of his brain injury. He was keen to do all he could to get back to the life he had before. He attended the Headway Essex Brain Injury and Me programme. There he was helped to understand his brain injury and to learn how to compensate for the effects of his injury.

Later he attended the Headway Centre and it was there that he could really start work on his goal to drive again and to return to work. His support worker at the time asked him “what happens if you do not regain your licence?”  Ben said “but I will get it”, as he was 100% convinced he would do it. His determination drove him forward and we are pleased to say he achieved this. Over the time, at Headway Essex he worked on strategies to improve and compensate for his memory problems and the steps he needed to return to work.

Returning to Work

The path to return to work was not an easy one. His employer was supportive of him returning to work and he initially attended some therapeutic days. This was to enable him to to re-connect ahead of a formal return to work. His initial return to work did not go well. Ben was unable to do the same job he did before, and his fatigue was a real problem. It was taking all his brains energy to find new pathways to get a job done. Something that before he would have done without thinking.

After some time Ben was ready to try again to return to work. Following discussions and a better understanding of his condition, Ben and his employers worked out a plan. This included a phased return to work and some adjustments to support him in his job. His Company, Hobart, install and repair commercial catering equipment. Prior to Ben’s injury he worked on the repair side. This job was more challenging and stressful for him after his brain injury.

His employers agreed he could switch to installing the equipment. This suits Ben, as it is more predictable and causes less stress and anxiety about the unknown. This time they took things more slowly. Ben re-started in June 2023 with one day a week shadowing someone. Ben now works 3 days a week. He would like to think soon he may be able to work up to a 4th day, but he still struggles with fatigue and is currently wiped out at the end of a workday.

A Life Rewritten – Lasting Effects

With his drive and determination, Ben has managed to regain his licence and return to his job. He has even re-joined ‘Team Kintex’, his parkour team and performs with them at events.

Ben said, “Someone once said to me with brain injury it is like one step forward and six steps back, but you do make progress eventually. I understand now what that meant and that you have to continue to persevere and keep trying no matter what the setback”.

As with many people with hidden brain injuries, you would never know to look at Ben that he is still living with the effects of his injury. The journey has been tough and there are many challenges he still lives with.

Although his physical recovery is remarkable, Ben still lives with lasting effects. In addition to fatigue, Ben says he is less empathetic than before his injury and gets angry quite quickly without understanding why.


A Life Rewritten – Positives from a Negative

There are lots of positive changes in Ben and he is keen that other young drivers do not end up like him.

He is currently taking part in Essex County Council’s Vision Zero initiative. Its goal is to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the county’s roads by 2040. They are speaking to people like Ben to try to understand why many young men in particular drive recklessly.

When thinking about changes for the better Ben says, “Although I was always quite a reliable person before, I am now even more reliable. Now I put everything into my phone. Therefore, I will always do or attend something that I have said I will do. I also feel more confident and less shy than I was before. I’m less of a yes man, which could be good or bad, but on the whole I think that is positive.”

Ben still has a love of driving but he no longer speeds and is currently taking his advanced driving course, so he is even more cautious when driving and aware of the risks and dangers.

Do You Want to Help Others Like Ben?

If you have been inspired by Ben’s story and you are able to help Headway Essex support others like Ben, please get involved – by donating, volunteering, or taking part in a Headway Essex event.

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