I opened the door that led into the dingy, dark and ironically unhygienic toilet situated inside Poole magistrates courts. I was dressed to impress, and after a quick wee I walked over to the cracked and dirty mirror. I looked at what was in front of me, directly in the eyes.
Thank you for giving me the strength to speak clearly today. Thank you for allowing my word finding issue to not cause me problems. I am where I’m meant to be, and I am grateful for that.
Living with a brain injury is expensive. What might seem like a good salary to some would be a pittance for me. The amount I need to spend on food; for example, or the amount of money I spend buying the same things over and over again because I keep losing them or leaving them somewhere (e.g. gym earphones. I have bought three pairs in a month. Not all that important but you get the gist). I spend over £400 a month on food alone. On my placement in Winchester I had ended up spending over 1K simply on food and petrol, I managed that in just 8 weeks.
Thank you for helping me prove to the panel I was fit to practice. Thank you for giving me the strength to get through this past month.
I was in Poole courts to appeal a decision to have my Disability Living Allowance (DLA) rejection overturned. For the second time that month, I was to face a panel of medical and legal professionals to prove my case. I had not been in to the tribunal yet.
The ironic thing is, I received the low rate DLA package for three years. Then they conveniently forgot to send me the renewal forms, meaning I had to reapply and was placed at the back of a two year waiting list (a well known government ploy to put people off the appeal process).
I walked out of the toilets and was accompanied to the room where I was to have the hearing.
I sat down and did what I could, speaking as clearly as my slow and swamp-like brain allowed. One thing I remember getting a good reaction from was this:
“I’m under no illusions. Although I would do anything to be a nurse, I’m also fully aware of the accountability pressure facing HCPs in the NHS today. I probably won’t be able to be a nurse for long before I slip up, but I just want to get there and I won’t stop until I do. Then I can cross that bridge when I come to it”.
They asked me about the night terrors.
‘I remember being intubated. I remember being rescucitated and the CVP line falling out, it was painful. I remember being strapped down in a leer jet for 17 hours, I was so hot. I knew I was dying. I remember Mexican doctors standing at my bedside, their smell. I remember my parents and Dani by my bedside talking slowly to me, telling me I would pull through. I remember my dreams in the coma. I remember being cannulated 100 times and treated for sepsis, horrible medicine. I remember pulling my cannulas and NG tube out. I remember holding on to my mum’s hand in Mexico telling her ‘it hurts. It hurts’ and her saying ‘I know babe. But you’re in the best place’. I remember conversations around me. I remember my dad’s hairy arms tickling my arms as he leant over, The smell of his cologne. I remember being locked in the dolphinarium and the trainer was torturing me. I remember it all. I thought I had died and gone to hell.
And to think it took 3 years for anyone to diagnose PTSD is fucking outrageous.
Mexico 2012, a few hours before the accident.
“Thank you Mr Whitehead. Have a seat outside and we’ll call you back in a few minutes to tell you our decision”.
Financially, life has been extremely tough since my injury. My fatigue means that I am only able to study part time and I can no longer work as well as study, something most students need to do to stay afloat. I haven’t had an income for four years!
After I had sat outside for a few minutes, the door opened and they called me back in.
“Mr Whitehead. We have taken into consideration your disability and the horrendous symptoms you’ve discussed and have decided to allow you to be on the enhanced DLA package. It will be backdated; so you will receiving around two years worth of money along with your weekly payments. Thank you and good luck, you deserve it’.
This doesn’t happen much for me, but they got it. They understood.
I was scored 4 for mobility because I was able to walk 200 yards when my decision was first rejected. On this day I was scored 10, the maximum. Those of you still stupid enough to think mobility is only about our physical abilities like walking and wiping your arse need to unsubscribe from this blog.
1 week earlier to the very day, I was deemed fit to practice and cleared to carry on being a nurse. This was a very close call, but my attitude got me through it and I came out on top. So overall it’s been a damn good week.
For the first time since my accident, I am me again. I know what I need to do now. I know how to overcome the hardest challenges. I’ve survived every challenge life has thrown at me so far. It’s ‘the secret’the power of compassion and the law of attraction, and I know how to use it again. Gratitude and positivity day in and day out.
The Buddha says that only love can dispel hate, so I made myself empathise with Paddy and Marie. I hope they are able to find peace, as I have done.
I can’t imagine what life must have done to them to make them this way. These tough lessons have taught me so much, and I am thankful to Paddy and Marie for being the way they are. Without their ugliness, I might not have found me again.
Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven.
I get up in the morning and say thank you with every step to the toilet. I say thanks for such a great wee, which are always most pleasurable first thing in the morning.
I remember what it’s like to win again. Two big victories, the biggest in four years. After the torturous reality of nearly losing my job; being questioned by the police (also another close call. Had the witness said nothing I would not have been able to be a nurse, ever. Even being accused of assault is enough to get you binned) and now after two years of not giving up this fight I have won here today.
If there is one message brain injury survivors and their relatives can take from this blog, it’s this:
Regardless of how bad your situation is; how little hope there appears to be, no matter how much you have to lose I have found out how we can win. And this goes for anyone, brain injured or not.
Don’t swear. Don’t get angry. Don’t ever do anything in anger. Take a deep breath, go and sit in silence for a few moments and then say out loud ‘THANK YOU’ and mean every word of it. When you’re grateful your whole persona changes, your attitude and outlook automatically become positive. Thereafter everything you do will be done in a positive light without malice or negativity, and you’ll attract only positive into your life.
Surely I’ve give you enough proof to show you it works?
I’ll make mistakes still. I’ll make more piss poor choices than most, sure. But one thing is for certain:
I know how to deal with life again. And I can get through anything.