A-Z

Bryan

Age at interview: 36
Brief Outline: Bryan was born with a visual impairment. He has also sustained two head injuries, which resulted in hearing loss and some difficulty concentrating.
Background: Bryan is single, lives alone and is employed in an administrative role by a charity, which supports disabled people. Ethnic background' White Scottish/British.

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Bryan was born with a condition called congenital lebers amaurosis, which means he has been visually impaired since birth. He has about five percent of vision and is a long cane user. He has also sustained two head injuries. The first happened after a night out when he was a student, but he has no memory of how it occurred. He had emergency surgery to repair the damage to his fractured skull and was kept “heavily sedated because of the trauma of the injury”. A further operation identified that one of his hearing bones (the stapes) had been damaged and this was replaced by a prosthesis. This improved his hearing. 
 
Bryan describes being desperate to find out what had happened to cause this injury but was unable to because there were no witnesses. He says he had “a lot of feelings of guilt, of shame that it had happened” because it occurred after he had been drinking alcohol. He also worried that his friends would make judgements about him.
 
Bryan’s second injury occurred when he fell from the platform at an underground tube station. He hit his head and broke his ankle. After being discharged from hospital, he spent time recovering in his flat. He was unable to get out and about because he was not able to manage crutches and a long cane. He felt that some hospital staff were a bit judgemental of him because it was the second head injury he had. However, others were kind and reassuring and ensured he got the appropriate care he needed. 
 
Since both head injuries, Bryan has noticed that he cannot concentrate for prolonged periods of time. The strategies he employs to deal with this include moving on to a new task every half hour and ensuring his colleagues and boss know about his problems. 
 
Bryan still uses the tube with assistance from staff. He needs to arrange to have assistance 48 hours in advance and thinks this is unfair; he should be able to turn up and use the tube like everyone else. He believes that one of the most important things that helps him get by is being communicative with people.

 

 

Bryan sustained a brain injury when he fell off a platform at a tube station. He was reassured by...

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Bryan sustained a brain injury when he fell off a platform at a tube station. He was reassured by...

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I had been out drinking with an alleged friend, who was a new friend. Because of engineering works I had to take an unfamiliar route home on the tube. I got on the tube at [station name]. My last memory is of being on the tube, and thinking, God, there aren’t any announcements of where do I get off? And, subsequent to that, I walked off the edge of a platform that didn’t have any tactile edging on it whatsoever, like it was supposed to have, and whacked my head off of steel rails six feet below essentially. And passed out.
 
I regained consciousness. I didn’t have any idea where I was. Sort of looked up and saw this roof thing, and sort of thought, “That’s kind of weird, why am I lying here?” This guy was in front of me, I think he said, “I’m a Tube supervisor.” He also said something else. I can’t remember what that was. I still didn’t have any idea where I was to be honest. It’s a weird sensation to have absolutely nothing going through your head, but that’s kind of what it was like. I was so stunned, I just sort of lay there. I think I tried to get up and the guy sort of went, “No, no, no, don’t.” And I then heard the alarm going off, telling people to evacuate the station. And then I think I tried to get up again, and the guy was like, “No, no, no, no. Stay where you are. Stay where you are.” Then the ambulance crew arrived and that’s when I got really, really scared, because they sort of went, “Is the current off?” And I started putting two and two together and went, “Oh my God! Oh shit!” Because I could feel gravel under my hand and I was sort of going, this is really weird. I don’t understand. I just don’t understand this. I don’t understand anything. And so they climbed down and I have to say they were fantastic. They were really, really good. Because the guy that basically just sat and maintained physical contact with me the whole time, which was incredibly comforting in that situation, just having somebody there who would sort of hold on to you and keep reassuring you. Because I remember just keeping repeating, “I’m really, really scared. I’m really, really scared.” 
 
And I became very, very aggressive, because I was sort of going, “Where’s my stuff?” My mobile had actually fallen out of my pocket when I’d fallen at the tracks. I’d had a light jacket on. I remember becoming really, really aggressive and sort of going, “Where’s my stuff? Where’s my stuff?” 

 

 

Although he attended counselling, it did not help Bryan as much as knowing he could have an...

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Although he attended counselling, it did not help Bryan as much as knowing he could have an...

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Basically my boss at work said, essentially, “You need help. I want you to go to your GP. If you won’t speak to your family or tell anybody what’s happened to you, you need to go to your GP and you need to arrange counselling”. So I did that. And it wasn’t particularly successful to begin with because the guy would be picking up stuff about relationship break-ups and stuff like that. I was just sort of looking at him going, “This is nothing like a relationship break-up, trust me”. He was trying his best, he just hadn’t have dealt with me before. I had requested at the GP specific counselling to do with head injuries and they said, “We can’t do that. We only have generic counselling, so you either take it or leave it.” And so I said, “Right, I’ll take it.” And it did gradually improve as my mood gradually improved. I was able to start smiling a little bit again and the counsellor noticed the difference in me by the end of it. Without wanting to be at all judgemental of the guy, critical of him – because I don’t think it was his fault at all – that wasn’t because of the counselling I don’t think. That was because external factors helped me improve, such as knowing I was going to be able to get an operation on the ear. 

 

Bryan has a support worker through Access to Work.

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Bryan has a support worker through Access to Work.

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It happens through access to work. It happens through the Department of Employment. I get a support worker for fifteen hours a week to help me with the visual aspect of my job. So to help me post letters, format documents, get me from A to B if I’m going to external meetings. It’s essentially to help me with anything I need assistance with because of my visual impairment. And now a little bit because of my hearing impairment, although I don’t tend to use my support workers for that so much. But I will sometimes sort of say to them, “Can we just go into this corner that’s a bit quieter, just to talk about something because I’m having difficulty concentrating?” That’s the other thing, I would say my concentration spans is really, really poor and I think that’s partly because of the two head injuries, you know. 

 

About six months after injury, Bryan became depressed because he felt he should have made ...

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About six months after injury, Bryan became depressed because he felt he should have made ...

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And there was a weird thing that happened actually about six months later. I kind of sort of became depressed all over again. I thought because of something so revelatory having happened to me, I should have been able to make incredible changes to my life, and I should have been achieving a lot, and I should have been a much better person. Essentially I was probably being self-critical because I suddenly thought, why haven’t you done so much? Why has nothing changed? And it’s funny because I know of one person that I used to work with who had been through a really serious operation who actually said the same thing on a work night out one night, not realising that the person sitting next to her had experienced exactly the same thing. And, although I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to reveal what happened to me, I did almost feel like saying, “I recognise this because I have been through the same thing, basically”. I don’t know you kind of think, okay, I should be able to do so much. I should be able to help so many people because of what’s happened to you. You kind of feel this desperate need sometimes to give something back or to, I don’t know, just to, just to have a real focus to your life. 

 

Bryan is a long-cane user. He was broke his ankle in a fall and was confined to his flat for a...

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Bryan is a long-cane user. He was broke his ankle in a fall and was confined to his flat for a...

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I was confined to my flat essentially. The only place that I actually went was to the hospital to have the ankle x-rayed every so often. Apart from that I was in my flat, which probably was also damaging psychologically because it gave me a lot of time to think. But actually might have been quite a good safety net as well, because it gave me long enough to realise that my hearing was badly damaged, and that I needed to do something about it. 

 

When the bus driver refused to turn on the audio announcements, members of the public backed...

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When the bus driver refused to turn on the audio announcements, members of the public backed...

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Actually I’ve had situations where members of the public have backed me up in arguments with, for instance, bus drivers who are refusing to turn on announcements, by saying, “I will tell you when you get to your destination”. And I go, “Oh no, you won’t. There’s a highly evolved system on your bus that will do that for you, that I have more confidence in – no offense – than I do in you, so turn it on.” And members of the public have sometimes spoken up in my defence and said, “He’s right. Turn it on, or we’ll put in a complaint as well.” 
 
Why would they not turn them on?
 
Because they think it annoys the public. They don’t want to do it because they don’t know how to work them. They want to know where you’re going.

 

 

After Bryan's injury he began using the Taxi Card Scheme. It makes his commute to work much easier.

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After Bryan's injury he began using the Taxi Card Scheme. It makes his commute to work much easier.

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The taxi card scheme is funded by each local authority, each local London borough. And essentially what it means is you get discounted taxi journeys. So you pay for the first – at the moment its £1.50, but it will shortly go up to £3 – of the journey and you can then, well certainly in [my local borough], you can then double swipe the card up to about a maximum, I think it’s of about £20. And then from there on you pay the rest of the journey.
 
Is there anything about London that has made your experience more difficult?
 
Yes. I’m now finding the daily commute to and from work virtually impossible. I found it very difficult before with much better hearing and with only a visual impairment. All too often, during busy times, Tube staff just don’t turn up. Londoners don’t communicate very well. So if I get on a tube and sort of say, try and say to people, “Is there any space next to you where I can squeeze in?” They will completely ignore you, because they just don’t communicate, you know. 

 

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