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Bridget

Age at interview: 56
Brief Outline: Bridget sustained a traumatic brain injury twenty-one years ago in a car accident. She was travelling with her partner who sadly died in the accident.
Background: Bridget lives with her partner. Before her injury she worked as a personnel manager and now volunteers at Headway, the brain injury charity. Ethnic background' White/British.

More about me...

Bridget was in a happy relationship with her partner at the time of her injury. He was killed in the car accident in which she sustained a traumatic brain injury. When she regained consciousness, she did not realise her partner had been killed. Her father had to tell her soon after, which he found one of the hardest things he had ever had to do.
 
As a result of her injury, Bridget has memory problems and her brain does not process the information taken in by her left eye. Bridget received rehabilitation from psychologists for her memory, from physiotherapists for her physical problems and from an occupational therapist to help her with daily living skills. She describes the occupational therapy as insulting because it covered things she knew how to do, such as making tea and cleaning her house. 
 
She keeps notes in a diary to help her remember both things she has done and things she has to do. She also has other tricks to help her memory. For instance, if she meets someone, she associates their name with something familiar in order to remember it. When she is travelling to new places, she looks for landmarks she can remember to help her find her way back. 
 
When she felt sufficiently recovered, Bridget decided she would go back to work, but her memory problems prevented her from pursuing her career and she had to stop working. Luckily she had bought insurance before her injury and so is financially stable at present. She is planning for her future by saving and making financial investments. She now volunteers at Headway, the brain injury charity, and chairs one of its support groups. 
 
Bridget met her current partner on a dating website. She encourages others to use online dating to meet people, but reminds them to make their safety their priority.

 

 

Bridget’s father told her that her partner had been killed in the car crash. She said it was one...

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And your partner was killed in the car accident?
 
Yeah.
 
And that must have been absolutely devastating.
 
Well it’s interesting because I have been told subsequently that I didn’t remember that he’d been killed. So, when I was in hospital and I had, after I was unconscious, and I think I was conscious I was unconscious for a long time, like a few weeks rather than days. When I did finally come round I kept asking about him. And I’ll never forget that was one of the things my father had told me, that he was the one who the hospital just said somebody’s got to tell her, so he was the one who had to tell me that he had died. So he said that was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

 

 

She couldn’t go back to work after her brain injury, but Bridget’s insurance will pay her as if...

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Although I had been with my job six months when I had the accident and, therefore, I didn’t have any employment protection, but they had a BUPA scheme so they kept paying me, I think, I’m not sure, for some period of time. I don’t know how many months it was. But, I would say, I was very fortunate. My sister who’s slightly older than me was working for Sun Life Insurance and she had sold me...When I started my job, I didn’t have any employment protection for the first twelve months. Because I was a personnel professional I needed to get it. So, she sold me a permanent health insurance scheme, which was in operation when I had the accident, which meant that I am now paid by my insurance as if I were working until I reach retirement age, less state benefits and I’m very, very grateful for that. Because, you know, if I hadn’t had that it would have been much more difficult. So I can’t remember what the question was.

 

Bridget didn’t tell people she dated about her brain injury because it may have given them a bad...

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I think the reason was that I suppose I want people to like me for who I am now and not… And I don’t want anyone to have any preconceptions about; oh she’s got a brain injury. I think, if in the internet dating, you would hardly put it on anyway, but if I put, you know, I’d been in an accident and had a brain injury, I don’t think people would have wanted to see me. So, as far as I was concerned that was a dating issue really. I don’t think people would want to see you. And once I’d seen him a few times I suppose I just, I didn’t want it to go on forever, which I could have done, well I couldn’t have done, but I just felt I wanted to get to a stage where we both wanted to see each other still. So... For it not to be an issue really.
 
Right. You said there that you could have hidden it for a long time and then you said but actually I couldn’t. Do you think that it would become obvious to somebody?
 
No. But I think once we’d become more friends, more boyfriend/girlfriend he would have met my friends and they all knew. So, it wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have done it.
 
Hm. Yeah.
 
Plus, I mean there are things like hitting my head on the cupboard in the kitchen and you know, not remembering where things are, where the grater is or something like that, which would have become, particularly irritating I think.

 

 

Bridget explains the strategies she uses to remember the names of people she meets and routes she...

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I did see somebody at one stage who told me various things, which I’ve never forgotten, like if you want to remember a person’s name link it to something that means something to you. So you meet Alice and she goes with Alice in Wonderland, you know, it’s that sort of thing. And it’s hard work, you can’t do it all the time, but on occasions when I want to, I can do that. And I’ve never forgotten that, so yeah, I mean there are, there have been memory... And the spatial orientation thing, you know, forgetting the way, the way to go to places. I know the way to do it because I was taught it, is, you know, you’ve got to make sure if you going on a route, you know, is there a Lloyds, you know, do you turn right at the Lloyds bank? Do you, you know, pass the Sainsbury’s? All that sort of thing, the physical practical things. I was taught all that as well.  

 

Bridget told her new employer about her injury and that because of her insurance she could work...

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I think at that stage I then started applying for jobs, and I was offered a job. It was a firm of legal aid solicitors. I think they only had about 80 staff and they offered me the job. In the interview I didn’t tell them about my accident. I had got a very, obviously, very viable reason for wanting to change. And it wasn’t until they offered me the job that I then told the director about my accident and that they didn’t need to pay me, and that I, because I had the insurance, and anyway they agreed to that happening and I was there for three months. And eventually they did ask me to leave, and they said, basically, it was, there were some very good things about me, in that I … when they had a particular personnel issue or problem, I would be able to talk them through and how to work it and do it. But then, you know, someone would walk in the door and I couldn’t remember who they were, you know, it was that. And I was being ridiculed basically and they just felt it wasn’t, and so they decided to recruit...I was the first person on personnel they’d ever had. I mean it had always been done by the partners. So they then decided to recruit and employ somebody.
 
So I then went and did voluntary work in Oxfam for a long time. Local Oxfam. And so it was...I just wanted to be back at work, I wanted to be, no probably not back at work, I just wanted to be with other people and doing things, and, you know, because I had a very full life before and then suddenly to be at home all the time, which you know, I didn’t need to work, but I really didn’t want to not work. So that was it. 

 

 

Bridget’s partner was killed in the accident in which she sustained her brain injury. When she...

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I would say on the relationship thing. I mean my partner was killed. I very much loved him. We were going to live together for the rest of our lives and everything. And I think it took me a long time to, I was at an age where I knew all my friends. Had met all the men that were likely and all that. And I decided to do internet dating because I think I wanted to meet somebody. I didn’t know if I wanted to live with anybody again, but I certainly wanted to meet somebody and there wasn’t anybody out there. And I just think don’t be frightened of internet dating. If you work at it, if you do it well, you protect yourself, don’t give any personal information out until you know you’re ready for it, you, you know, you can meet somebody and life can be… I mean when you reach your mid 30s all your friends are married with they’ve got young children. You know, what, yes, what do you do about it? Anyway I’d say don’t be frightened about internet dating as long as you take care. 

 

On the Tube, people bump into Bridget because her brain injury isn’t obvious, but she likes the...

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And one of the things [the neuropsychiatrist] said to me, well when I last spoke to him personally, I just said, you know, “The eyesight thing is the real thing that pisses me off.” And you know, it’s because people don’t know, so they bang into when you’re in the tube, or you’re going up the escalator or something.” And he said, “Well Bridget, just get yourself a little white stick, a collapsible stick which you old in your hand and you can lengthen it or shorten it with the flip of your and just have it there.” But I know I went away and I thought, well he really doesn’t know me at all does he? There’s no way that I’m ever going to have a little white stick in my left hand. Because however bad it is, it’s not that bad that I’m going to do that.
 
Why is that?
 
Because I don’t want it to be obvious. I mean that’s what I like about it, that it’s, it’s not obvious and people don’t know. Yes, it pisses me off when people bang me on the shoulder and occasionally I do say, “Can’t see out my left eye.” But generally, I can cope with that. 
 
I suppose the fact that there are more people around and, therefore, there’s less, people are less ‘kind’, in inverted commas, whereas when you’re somewhere more rural people do let people on the bus before them and they will help you in the street if you need it, or things like that, whereas you don’t get that in London I don’t think, or very rarely. So I think, but I was a very, I was very used to living in London, and, and, you know, I mean I lived in [place name] and so that, and you know, I don’t think that changed after the accident. I think I still liked being a Londoner and like, I like the anonymity and I suppose anonymity is good because I like it. But if I didn’t like it, then that might have been an issue.

 

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