31 July 2015
Brain Injuries and The Importance of Early Rehabilitation
Seeing the advert for BBC 3’s feature Me and My New Brain instantly struck a chord with me. Having spent a large part of the last two years working on serious injury cases, I was only too ready to try and understand more about what it’s really like to live with the effects of brain injury.
The documentary is centred around Charlie Elmore, who sustained a brain injury four years ago after a snowboarding accident. She was placed in a medically-induced coma with no one knowing whether she would wake up, or if she did, what kind of life she would be faced with.
Luckily for Charlie, she made a fantastic recovery and no longer considers herself to be limited by any lingering effects of a brain injury. She defiantly reiterates that she is not a “victim”, but others are not quite so lucky.
The Importance of Rehabilitation
In Me and My New Brain, Charlie was shown round a ward of ten brain injury patients by the neurologist who treated her, Dr Ronnie Beer. He told her that, statistically, two of those patients will die, two will make a full recovery and six will survive but be left with significant disability.
There is simply no exact science to say how much progression will be made by brain injury survivors who are left disabled.
A blow to the brain can have devastating consequences and a key reason behind brain injury survivors seeking compensation for their injuries is the need for ongoing rehabilitation. Any money that they receive can help their chances of recovery – and it is this money that is key in brain injury claims.
As with Charlie and her friends Callum, Tai and Hannah who also suffered brain injuries, structured rehabilitation was absolutely essential in helping the brain to stimulate new connections and facilitate as much recovery as possible.
The effects of a brain injury usually plateau after two years, so as soon as a defendant admits liability for an accident, all Personal Injury Lawyers know that it is vital to request interim payments to kick-start the rehabilitation process for their client and provide the best prospects of recovery.
Early rehabilitation was clearly the case with Charlie in Me and My New Brain who, whilst initially being unable to do anything after waking up from her coma, has made incredible progress and has even returned to the slopes! As her new friend Hannah described in the programme, Charlie seems “just like a normal person”, something that Hannah herself unfortunately could not achieve quite so early on.
Other Crucial Elements of Brain Injury Compensation
What was clear from neuropsychological testing though is that Charlie has been left with some residual difficulties such as fatigue, difficulty learning, planning and multi-tasking. These are all too common in brain injury cases.
Imagine if you were on the brink of success of being the next Tom Daley, or even simpler than that, had just completed your PGCE and was about to commence a teaching career? The injury may scupper any chances of ever attaining this position and so another crucial part of brain injury compensation is the loss of chance and the loss of earnings that go with it.
Consider also, if you are destined to be wheelchair bound for the rest of your life and your home does not have wheelchair access or adequate room for wheelchair circulation space (which is likely with most homes)? You’d need a new home that’s adapted and most likely, extra care and support. Adaptations and support cost money and are an important feature of brain injury compensation.
I am completely in awe of Charlie’s strength. She is an absolute inspiration as a young woman determined not to let any lingering effects of brain injury inhibit her dream of becoming, in her case, an adaptive snowboarding instructor. As with her friends, they too were eager to get back into employment and get on with their lives.
Other brain injury survivors, however, can suffer lingering cognitive issues and associated psychological issues, known as “the invisible difficulties”, that can hold them back from returning to work for a long time, and in some cases, forever.
As with all brain injury survivors who we represent, the question we always consider is how our specialised help can put them in the best position possible, and help guide them towards a brighter outcome.
Deepti Patel is a paralegal in the brain injury team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have years of experience in brain injury claims and can provide immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support from anywhere in the UK and offer hospital visits for people who cannot attend one of our offices.