We are surrounded by reports of car accidents, violent attacks and strokes that result in severe brain injuries and conditions like Vegetative State and Minimally Consciousness. We may read about the accidents, but hear little of the ongoing brain injury. What are the odds of recovery, what is the norm?

Regretfully the statistics do not make easy reading. According to MSD Manual, 50% of people in a Vegetative State (Part of the brain controlling thought and behaviour no longer functions) die within 6 months – the remaining 50% within 2-5 years. The numbers are also unclear – the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology reports between 4,000 and 16,000 people are living in a Vegetative State in the UK, with up to 48,000 in a Minimally Conscious State (severe, but incomplete impairment of awareness).

The statistics ignore the human element – the pain and emotional disruption of normality caused by a traumatic brain injury. This begs the question – what would you do, how would you manage when someone you love is the victim of a sudden accident, or illness, which leaves them severely brain injured? Would you assume the worst and switch off machines or withdraw feeding and care, or would you believe that your love, care and supporting therapies could create a life that contains some quality?

Cases of recovery from severe brain injury are extremely rare. However, cases of progress, the return to consciousness, to awareness and emotional interaction are plentiful and can take place even years after the initial event. This is a testimony to the power of perseverance, of positive thinking and human love and can be a cause of great hope to those facing this challenge….like Stewart’s story.

Stewart’s story

Stew, a funny, hardworking, loving 25 year old, enjoying his life and imagining what else it would bring had his and his family’s future not been turned on its head in a car accident one October morning.

When the family were met at the hospital by a policeman and a nurse and taken into a private room to be told, “slight bleed to the brain, not able to drain, induced coma, ventilated, broken arm and a few facial cuts”, they understood it was probably not good news.

In fact Stewart remained in hospital for 6 months and during that time the consultants gave a bleak outcome … “vegetative state, what you see at 6 months to a year is likely to be all you’ll get, constant chest infections, urine infections, no response to treatment and even treatment withdrawn”. Despite feeling shell-shocked, the family were determined, with love, positive thinking and the support of friends to fight all they could for their son and brother.

Stewart was moved to the Royal Hospital of Neuro Disability (‘RHND’) in London. A place that, on first entry, came as a huge shock, all of the patients staying there are severely injured, many not able to walk, talk, eat, drink or communicate in any way. This would be the beginning of a very slow, anxious journey for the family.

There was no miracle moment, no sudden awakening – however as time passed Stew began to show signs of awareness, responding to family members and to staff with a thumbs up. Recovery was slowly in progress. Months moved into years and Stewart continued to improve – gradually. Crucially, all of the time he was at RHND, therapists were on hand and could assist when they saw improvements.

After living away from home for 4 years, it was decided by the family that Stewart should come home for good. The house was suitably adapted to give Stew a room with a hoist and hospital profile bed and a wet room.

He has now been home with his family for 7 years, with 24/7 carers. In this time he has continued to improve, he has regained the ability to eat certain food, sometimes can find his voice and talk, plays games on his iPad, and at physiotherapy has even been able to transfer from a plinth to his wheelchair (with assistance) without the use of a hoist.

Clearly, Stew is not the person he was. His life, and that of his family, have changed for ever. Yet, he remains the loving, funny person he was before his accident, able to enjoy his life and enrich the lives of those who surround and love him.

Stewart’s story is not unique. In amongst the physical and emotional trauma, the disruption and anxiety, there can be grounds for hope. Improvements can and do occur. Good care and targeted therapies can help. Never underestimate the power of human love. However, the journey is long and hard but families and carers need not be alone – others have travelled the same road. Reach out.

With thanks to Stewart for allowing us to publish his story.

Brain Injury is BIG

Stewart’s story was told to us by his mum, Lynne, a founding member of Brain Injury is BIG.

Brain Injury is BIG is a charity dedicated to offering support, understanding and a network of care for people who have loved ones with a devastating brain injury. Support is via an on line forum or their telephone helpline. Brain Injury is BIG also have a small grant scheme where families may apply for help towards costs associated with visiting their loved ones, or supporting their rehabilitation.

Brain Injury Group is proud to support Brain Injury is BIG via our annual charity golf day, raising in excess of £24,000 since 2013.

Visit www.braininjuryisbig.org.uk or call on 01483 770999

LAWS – providing initial free legal advice

Legal & Welfare Service (LAWS) online for brain injury help, advice and support

What is the Brain Injury Group?

Brain Injury Group is a free service designed to connect those affected by a brain injury (whether there is a claim or not) to a range of experts who may be able to offer advice and assistance.

If you’d like to find out more about the work of Brain Injury Group, you are at the right place! You can follow the links below to:

The Brain Injury Group exists to support individuals and families affected by brain injury and the health and social care professionals working in this specialist field. Our mission is to provide anyone affected by brain injury with access to advice on legal, financial and welfare benefit issues delivered by proven experts in the field who have been chosen not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their passion and dedication to helping people.

As well as providing legal and welfare advice, Brain Injury Group provide training for legal, health and social care professionals. View our award winning Brain Injury Group brain injury training events.

The Brain Injury Group brain injury directory

The BIG Brain Injury Services Directory

How can Brain Injury Group help you?

If you would like advice about bringing a brain injury claim, capacity, deputyships, managing the award of compensation or any other aspect of brain injury welfare, legal or financial advice, we have specialist brain injury solicitors and Court of Protection solicitors who can assist.

You can find full details of Brain Injury Group members on our website or there are several ways to get in touch:

  1. Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 01737 852203
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you
  4. Find a specialist brain injury solicitor near to you