Patient turns mentor following traumatic brain injury
A traumatic brain injury in July 2017 left 48-year-old Mark unable to move or communicate. After eighteen months of care and support from Alfred Health staff, along with his own strength and determination, Mark is now active and social, and he’s been invited back to hospital to mentor other patients.
“From seeing Mark come into the unit, not able to get out of bed, to leaving the unit walking and engaging in conversation and activities, is really satisfying,” said Jacinta Sadler, Senior Clinician and Social Worker in the Acquired Brain Injury Unit.
Mark was playing a regular game of doubles tennis when a collision with his partner caused him to fall hard onto the court. He was rushed to The Alfred where neurosurgery staff saved his life. Unfortunately, the accident left Mark with a severe traumatic brain injury and he was transferred to the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Rehabilitation Centre at Caulfield Hospital, where he’d spend the next year recovering.
“When Mark first arrived in the ABI Unit he was in post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), common among patients with a brain injury, so he had difficulty forming new memories,” said Jacinta Sadler, Senior Clinician and Social Worker.
The ABI Unit is Victoria’s first purpose-built centre of excellence in brain injury rehabilitation. The statewide service opened in 2014 to treat patients from early stages of injury, through to rehabilitation and recovery. Caulfield Hospital’s health professionals play a leading research and teaching role in acquired brain injury rehabilitation for the benefit of the wider community.
Before his accident, Mark was confident in social settings but he temporarily lost these skills following the traumatic brain injury. With his care team, Mark created goals for his recovery.
“Just getting out of my room, talking to people and starting conversations,” said Mark. “I just kept it simple - it’s not about quick results and I had to take a step back and trust who I had around me to help.”
It took an interdisciplinary team to get Mark on his feet and talking again, including support from the following teams: physiotherapy; occupational therapy; nutrition and dietetics; nursing; doctors; speech pathology; social work; psychiatry; allied health assistants; assistants in nursing; psychology and recreational therapy.
Along with cooking classes, Mark particularly enjoyed the social skills therapy group, coordinated by the occupational therapy team, where he began to make remarkable progress.
“I big highlight was when he was MC for trivia night,” said Ms Sadler. “Mark has a sense of determination and he wanted to engage and he took on board what the team was supporting him with.”
Mark is doing so well that staff have invited him to be a guest speaker in the ABI Unit’s social skills group.
“Hopefully I can help some people. That’s something I’d love to do, and I could do it,” said Mark.
Despite the challenging months following his accident, Mark is left with a positive attitude that he draws on while living in the community with minimal assistance.
“The journey has been a long one, lots of pot holes, but I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt since the accident. It’s a realisation that you need to appreciate what you’ve got, and what you’ve got around you.”
Mark says life after hospital is going well, and made easier thanks to the help of staff and carers at Glenhuntly Terrace - a supported residential service. He wants to acknowledge the work of Tammy, along with Kate Kirk, Emily, Rachael, and former Caulfield Hospital employee Kate.