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Dan’s Story – ‘Rehabilitation at Home after a Brain Injury’

Family after Rehabilitation at Home with peartree Community

This story is the second part of Dan’s Story, detailing his experience of an and his family describe their experience of receiving therapy and rehabilitation at home post brain injury with Peartree House Community Service. If found this story inspiring please check back next week for part two to read more about his parent’s journey through the process of having rehabilitation at home.

Can you just tell us a bit about your brain injury?

Dan: On the 28th of September I went out on a drive on a day where the rain has been quite bad. I ended up hitting a patch of water at around 55 miles an hour and the car went sideways, flipped the other direction and went in to a tree. 

I hit my head in the impact, which is how I got the brain injury, but was lucky all the airbags went off which saved my life. Someone flagged down an ambulance for me that was coming in the other direction, so I was in an ambulance within 5 minutes, which was extremely lucky.

I was in a medically induced coma for around 5 weeks before coming out and then was in PTA for a long time. I was very forgetful and couldn’t remember anything that happened to me. I was on feeding tubes, had machines doing everything for me and I then moved on to de-neuro, which was still ICU.

From de-neuro I went to Snowdon, which is the last hospital I was at. Being there was really good for me as it was the first place I was aware of everything that was happening. I came out of PTA slowly there and figured out what had happened to me and how I was going to get back to normal as much as possible.

I had to learn to walk again. Things like how to go upstairs and had therapy every day in Snowden. I made some really good bonds with other patients and nurses there. Just having people I could have a laugh with was really nice and pushed me forward to want to get better.

My main goal was getting home and I when I did I was so happy, and seeing my dog was amazing.  

Darren (Dan’s Dad): Then the Peartree team got involved giving therapy and rehabilitation at home. He’d really wanted to take the dog out for a walk all the time that he had been in hospital.

Dan: So I got my permit for walking the dog *laughs*, which was brilliant as it gave me some sense of normality, pre brain injury. That’s just something I would have done before and it was the first thing I could do again on my own.

I’ve been getting on really well with the Peartree therapists who come to my house. They’re amazing people and have taught me so much. I can see the improvements in myself and they’ve helped improve my memory and gotten me back up to university level so that I can go back to university.

I was on a gap year, which became more of a recovery year,  so I’m going on my second gap year this year and after that I’ll be going to University. I’ll be studying criminology, which I studied at A level.

What were the outstanding challenges that you had when you first came home?

Dan: I get fatigued and tired quite easily, especially at the start. It’s gotten better, but I’m still taking two small rest breaks a day of about 15 minutes. I also take a one hour break a day, which I do after therapy.

The therapists have done a lot with me around attention, which because of my fatigue I found quite hard at the beginning. They also set multiple errand tasks to see how I was getting on. It was quite frustrating at the beginning as I was forgetting so many things.

I also have a diary now, so I plan out my days. With the diary I can refer back to it, or use my phone to put notes in. I did another multiple errand task about 2 weeks ago and using those techniques made it so much easier and you can see your own improvements.

How did the therapists help you get back in to the workplace?

Dan: It’s been about a month and it has helped give me some normality again. It’s a staged back to work. At first I went back to two, two hour shifts a week, then moved it up to four hour shifts and then to five. We have a plan to get back to my original hours in a month or two, which I’m really looking forward to as I was there for two and a half days a week beforehand.

Darren: His work have been amazing in helping him get back.

Emma (Dan’s Mum):  It’s the teamwork between his managers at work and the occupational therapists in getting him back, because if it was up to Dan he’d be working 5 or 6 days a week, 9 hours a day, but they’ve been really good at controlling the staging of him going back.

Dan: At first I’d just push through my fatigue and ignore it, but as the occupational therapy has progressed I have my rest and it does make me feel a lot better and then I can go a full day without feeling tired.

Darren: It took a bit for him to realise he was getting tired, as he’d power through things which has an effect on the next day. Last week was the point where he actually could see for himself that, yes, he needs to have his rest periods.

Dan:  I sort of forgot about them and thought I was fine but since I’ve put them back in place I noticed that it’s made a big difference.

Looking back on your journey, what have been the most important parts?

Dan: Definitely the people that give you hope, and seeing where you were and where you could be that pushes you forward. It was so nice to be out of hospital and every little thing that I was doing, I was setting a goal for myself.

Emma: It was simple things like steps like doing 300 steps a day and would then set himself a target of 400 steps for the next day.

Dan: I was doing 10,000 steps a day by the time I left hospital. I started getting some of the weights from the hospital too. So I still do that now that I’m out of hospital, which is a good thing I’ve taken from it. I definitely wouldn’t have done that even pre accident.

What would you tell somebody else that’s going through the same neurological rehabilitation?

Dan: Just keep going, you’ve got it. Look at every step and where you were to where you are now. Know that you can do well whatever stage you’re at. You need to apply yourself like I was in the ward. Just try and become the best you that you can be. It does build up slowly, but you’ll start to notice it and it’s worth it to keep going.

What difference has it made to have your therapy and rehabilitation at home?

Dan: I think it’s amazing. I couldn’t wait to be out of hospital. To be somewhere where you’re comfortable to do therapy, and do rehabilitation at home, it means you’re way more relaxed. You’re not worried about what people are thinking about you. I get on really well with the therapists and I can tell that they’re pushing me to become a better version of myself, which is is amazing. I think I’m probably better than I was before now because of therapy.

Emma: He can also take a rest during therapy if he needs to as he’s at home. I think for Dan, after doing five months in clinical environments, getting out and back to his vision of normality was really important. So having them come here has been incredible and it’s also been great because they’ve been able to build a relationship with us, and know who we are and what we are as a family.

Darren: I’ve been lucky enough to be here most of the time for these sessions, so I can always give them a bit of feedback that he might not give them. It’s so relaxed.

Emma: I also think there’s a balance between us telling Dan things, and them telling him things. They’re the experts, and working together we can say things we’ve noticed too. Dan’s an adult, so he can make his own decisions, but the feedback’s coming to him from so many angles. It’s not just us saying to him “You’re really tired, you need to take a rest.” It’s him noticing it, and then the therapists mentioning it too. We couldn’t have worked in that team without them being here.

Dan: It definitely is better. Now I can recognise when I’m feeling fatigued, and at first I would just ignore it, but now being able to recognise that it’s doing me good.

How did Peartree getting to know you as a family help in terms of the rehabilitation at home?

Emma: I think it enabled us to share Dan’s aims and ambitions with the therapists; but also doubts, concerns, and know what our lifestyle is so that they could make sure that the activities and therapies that Dan was doing were relevant and appropriate.

Even things that he’s done with the psychologist have been related to models to help him prepare for university. We’re also an outdoor family, so making sure that therapy involved taking the dog out and doing some of those very practical things is important.

Shannon, one of his Rehabilitation Assistants has been incredible taking him out to table tennis. They go to the golf range, they play badminton, and because Dan’s very keen to be active, all of those things were what she brought into play to help him develop the skills he needed to to overcome those weaknesses.

In table tennis she’d aim for his backhand to increase his coordination, but also get him do the scores and getting him to find the tennis ball when it falls off of the table. All those things helped but made the Occupational Therapy fun and enjoyable. In a clinical setting, you just wouldn’t have been able to do that.

Dan: That’s why I really enjoy rehabilitation at home. We can go out and play table tennis and things like that as it’s fun but very therapeutic because they make it therapeutic. I really enjoyed it.

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