Inspire Others

Chloe-story-Photo-AA
Credit: Paul Wilkinson: www.paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk

I was 19 years old and had just started at university. I can’t remember what happened to me. I have been told by my family and friends that it was New Year’s eve in 2012 and I was in Brighton. At 11:09pm I was crossing the road at traffic lights when a bus rounded the corner and hit me. 

This is what I have been told… 

I was knocked unconscious straight away. As it was New Year’s, there were lots of police and ambulances around, so they were very quick to arrive at the scene. They then took me to hospital. I had a broken thigh and collapsed lungs and at first they didn’t think I was going to survive. I spent the next two and a half months in the Brighton Royal Infirmary in a coma. When I woke up in hospital I didn’t know why I was there. I thought I was in prison or in a different country. I also felt out of place, as people with brain injuries are generally men and older people. 

At first one of my eyes was still closed and I woke up speaking in a way that didn’t make sense. I had lost a lot of weight and couldn’t remember anything from before the accident. I was transferred to a Brain Injury Unit that was closer to home. I stayed there for another three and a half months. Here, at this hospital,  I had to relearn how to walk and talk, eat and swallow. I was like a baby, relearning everything. I had lots of visitors in hospital, my school friends and uni friends and of course my family. Eventually I could walk with a frame. Once I could eat a whole meal and walk up the stairs I was allowed to go home to stay the night. Home was different and there were lots of aids to help me. I had lots of support from the NHS and then I was discharged from hospital. When I was at home I started to have private therapy. I also started to do personal training three times a week. I still struggle with my memory, and can’t remember anything from roughly three years before the accident.

I decided to share my story because being a young girl with a brain injury is not very common and I think it’s important that we get our stories heard. 

Proud Moments

Learning to walk again…and then running a 5K!

Making new friends – a lot of them with brain injuries.

Doing two voluntary jobs.

Right handed boot camp.

Being part of the ABCS group and research.

Working out three times a week.

Getting involved with the Cambourne Centre.

Studying for and then passing the AAT exam.

“Live life to the full, forget you have a brain injury.”

Chloe

A Typical Week

Therapy / health

My main therapy at the moment is with Jude, my speech and language therapist. She helps with my communication in all situations – we work on choosing the right topic to talk about for the audience, keeping up to date with everything happening in the world and sorting my weekly timetable out. She will often come with me to new places and help with communication at my voluntary jobs. For example, we have been swimming together a few times and Jude helped me process all the written notices, talking to staff about how to work the lockers, talking to new people in the pool and we also had fun racing each other in the pool!
I sometimes have other therapy or health related sessions during the week such as check ups with my brain injury consultant.

Social

My social life is very important to me. Carl, my boyfriend, picks me up on his way home from work and we generally just have dinner, watch a bit of TV and just ‘chill’. I cook for my family stuff like pasta and risotto, and help with the Sunday roast. I also see old and new friends regularly in the week. For example, old friends from school and new friends I made at one of my voluntary jobs. I go to London, go shopping and go out for food and drinks – all the normal stuff! One of my friends did a bike ride to raise money for the hospital I was in and that meant a lot to me.

Chores

I have regular chores to do in my family home – and this is getting me ready for living independently. I keep my room tidy, clean my bathroom, iron my clothes.

Admin

This category covers any life admin I need to do. Usually, it is sorting out my weekly timetable and emailing a screenshot to people who need to know what I’m doing (like my parents /therapist etc) and they can help keep me on track

Work

I have a voluntary job as front of house staff at a Hearing Dogs Charity café. I meet, greet and seat visitors. I meet lots of regular customers who keep coming back. There’s loads of dogs but we can’t touch them because we’re working in the café with food. I’ve learnt social skills and organisational skills and communication skills talking to staff and customers. I also have worked doing admin for a local chair museum. They’ve got me doing lots of different stuff like numbers, checking the amount of people that have come in, advertising on local websites about new events. You can check out Hearing Dogs and the amazing work they do here 

 

Fitness

I do personal training 3x a week. I leave the house and walk up about ten minutes to the gym where I meet Oli. Sometimes if I am early, I will treat us both to a coffee. I do an hour’s session of weights or cardio and then I walk back home. Sometimes I do other fitness sessions such as Yoga or swimming. I’ve run a couple of 5Ks and I hope to do a couple more.

What I enjoy now

Friends: 

  • School friends – go out for dinner, go shopping, go for coffee 
  • University friends – go to London, keeping in touch via social media 
  • Hearing dogs friends – go for drinks, go for food, socialising at work
  • Brain injury friends – talk online, meet in person, visit London 
  • Friend cycled from Brighton to Bucks to raise money for the hospital that saved my life

Family:

  • 7 brothers and sisters – spend time with my whole family in a big group, playing games, having a laugh and a drink!

Boyfriend:

  • Spa
  • Sleepovers
  • Chilling out 
  • Eating
  • This is when I watch TV 

Cooking:

  • Pasta – favourite is carbonara 
  • Sausage and mash
  • Help with Sunday Roast
  • Cooking with Step-Mum 
  • Risotto 

Shopping:

  • Local town centres or Westfield in London
  • With friends /family or alone 

Going out for dinner and drinks:

  • The Beech House – my favourite eatery 
  • I eat everything – but I’m not a fan of bananas 
  • Steak House – Miller and Carter
  • G&T and wine 
  • I’m massive on cheese 
  • I love Marmite!

Volunteering at Hearing Dogs:

  • Talking to people 
  • Serving people
  • Clean tables
  • Every week – Thursdays 
  • Friends with staff members and people that come in weekly 

Sports:

  • Ran a couple of 5Ks – Race for life, Wycombe
  • Used to play netball weekly at the gym
  • Personal Trainer – running machine, cross-trainer, weights, bands
  • Swimming 
  • Walking the dog

Future Plans

I genuinely want to live as ‘normal’ life as possible, although this might be a bit different for me because of my challenges. Like I still want to get married, have babies, and live life to the full. 

Like if I start working again it will need to be adapted so that I work shorter hours or have more breaks because of my tiredness which results in lack of concentration and me getting really confused as to what I need to do. If I start working again it will be totally different than what I was training to do, which was an accounting degree. I don’t know what I want to do yet or even what I will be able to do.

I also want to get my own house eventually, but again this is likely to have adaptations so that I can live life to the fullest. It will need to be in a town or close to food shops because I can’t drive anymore. Not driving isn’t an issue for me, which surprised me because you generally need to drive most places. But there are other modes of transport you can get, such as trains or buses or lifts. 

I know I will need some sort of therapy for as long as I can imagine, I’m not entirely sure as to what this might be yet. It might not be as much as I have now, but I know I’ll still need it. I’ll need help with decision making, planning, and remembering what to do and when to do it, although I might be able to tackle this myself with a calendar or reminders on my phone. 

I want to keep up the amount of sports I do, although this is covered by my three personal training sessions a week and walking to town to meet friends or go to the shops. 

This is my new normal and I kinda like it!

Consequences of my brain injury:

  • I am always tired.
    • I need lots of breaks because my brain has to work overtime so I get tired more easily, and when I am tired I can’t function.
  • Permanently dilated right pupil which is sensitive to light – this means I need to wear sunglasses outside on a bright day
  • Right hand sided weakness and numbness, the side I was hit.
    • This has got a lot better, but it will never be as good as my left.
    • I went to right handed boot camp where they put my left hand in a glove to force me to be more balanced with the use of both my hands. I am a leftie anyway, so I was totally overusing my left hand (e.g. I am unable to carry drinks in both hands)
  • Issues with long-term and short-term memory:
    • I have to use a calendar and lists to help for basic stuff e.g. changing my bed sheets.
    • Remembering bits of things and not all the details for example, when retelling an event to someone else, I’ll remember all the bad stuff and not necessarily the good stuff 
  • Difficulties with decision making, I need to almost be told what to do – for example, what to do on a day I don’t have anything planned, what to wear that’s appropriate for the weather (if it’s raining I might go out without a coat, not thinking anything of it until I get wet and cold)
  • I am a little bit slower and I don’t get things very quickly – if people tell me jokes, it takes me a little while to get the punchline 
  • I find it really hard to follow things on the TV – so I don’t really watch much TV and if I do, I don’t remember what I watched or what happened.

Speech and Language Therapy 

I am Jude, Chloe’s Speech and Language Therapist. I have worked with Chloe for 7 years. Working with Chloe to write her story for this website has been such a special way to look back at all the steps along the way that have helped Chloe rebuild a life she loves. 

As Chloe says: ‘this is my new normal and I kinda like it!’

Speech and Language Therapists help people to communicate after brain injury. As we communicate in almost every situation we are in, this means we can be really creative in the way we work – helping our clients in real-life scenarios.

Chloe has always been happy to have me tag along with her – to swimming, yoga class, her voluntary job, her AAT exam, her 5k race for life to name but a few! Here I can observe how she does, help her with any communication that does not quite go to plan and take our real life learning back to our tabletop therapy sessions to analyse and work on for the next time.

Chloe has always known how she would like things to happen – she is not a person who is keen on the ‘smashing goals!’ mentality – not that there is anything wrong with that, but that is not the way that Chloe is motivated. Instead, we have looked at what she would like to be able to do (go back to work in some form, see friends, have an interesting week etc) and worked together to identify and gently remove the barriers to doing this. For example, Chloe was interested in a voluntary work role that came up for her, but was nervous about the practicalities of getting there and doing the job. We visited the café she was applying to work in – just to have a no pressure cup of coffee and soak in the atmosphere. I then came with Chloe when she had her interview, was there when she did her first shift and visit regularly to see how things are going. Now she is a confident and happy member of the team! 

Lots of my work with Chloe starts with a cup of coffee in a nice café and a good chat. Although this might not seem like Speech and Language Therapy, it has been these informal chats in lovely spaces that have allowed us to explore what Chloe would like or not like to do. There is something about the atmosphere that allows Chloe to be honest about her feelings and allows me to pull back on a direction I might have been pushing on too hard – and to put my energy into another area that Chloe is more interested in.

Reflecting on all her achievements on these pages, I know how many of them started with casual cappuccinos and some gentle, probing conversations. Chloe has taught me so much about the value of very small steps towards big goals – and about the power of time. I have had the privilege of working with Chloe over a period of years – and look what she has achieved!