A-Z

Jane

Age at interview: 34
Brief Outline: Four years ago, after being involved in a car accident, Jane was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.
Background: Jane currently works in retail and is single and lives with flatmates. She is from New Zealand, but decided to move to London after her brain injury. She describes her Ethnic Background as New Zealand/European.

More about me...

Jane was driving her car when it was hit from behind. She remembers the “forward and backward sensation” and thinking, “This is quite bad”. She describes feeling dazed and very confused as she drove to A & E and was treated for whiplash. Her GP later said she probably had concussion and referred her to the concussion clinic for assessment by occupational therapists, neurologists and neuropsychologists. 
 
It was several weeks before Jane was diagnosed with a mild brain injury after an assessment by a neuropsychologist indicated that she had memory problems. Jane’s father also sustained a severe traumatic brain injury several years before her. His injury had a significant impact on his behaviour and personality. She thinks her family found it difficult to understand her experience because it didn’t seem as serious as her father’s. 
 
After her accident, Jane was fatigued and her sleep pattern was disrupted. She had problems remembering things and remembering people. She found it difficult to concentrate, especially in loud noise, and felt overwhelmed at work. 
 
Three months after her injury, Jane was encouraged to take a month off work by an occupational therapist. Later, she was let go from her job and said she experienced a “loss of identity” because she “had always been quite career driven”, so it was “strange to suddenly have nothing at all”.
 
Jane worked with a counsellor and an occupational therapist (OT). Her OT helped her to structure her day and get into a good sleeping pattern. Cutting out sugar, caffeine and alcohol also helped Jane to cope with fatigue, which still significantly affects her life. Her rehabilitation was paid for by a national accident insurance scheme, which everyone in New Zealand pays into. 
 
Some of Jane’s friends were not as understanding as she would have liked them to have been. She feels they did not appreciate how fatigued she was and how much she needed to rest. She had to turn down invitations to parties because they were held at times when she knew she would be tired. As a result she lost friends. Since her injury she has made new friends and believes these are good friendships. 
 
Jane has now moved from New Zealand to London and is looking for a job. She is reluctant to tell people that she has had a brain injury because she fears that might reduce her chances of becoming employed. She hopes that travelling and living overseas will demonstrate to employers that “she is fine”. 
 
She summed up her experience saying that after injury “can be pretty good. I’m not a hundred percent there yet, but it can be good”.

 

 

Jane describes the tests psychologists did with her to find out how her injury had affected her.

Jane describes the tests psychologists did with her to find out how her injury had affected her.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Yeah. So I did probably fairly typical neuropsych testing. So I think, I had to draw some kind of diagram which I dismally failed at. To do some word association stuff and I think, there were sequences in numbers as well I had to do. So, I think I couldn’t do very many. I probably maybe five or six numbers which is definitely a lot lower. So I’ve got a psychology degree, so I’d done that sort of stuff in first year psych and I know that [laughs] I know that I was like above average back then so, so, yeah, I think, yeah, it was pretty tiring. That’s about all I remember as well.
 
And I mean the psychologist had tried to establish, I mean it’s always difficult, I guess because no one gets that testing done and has a baseline, you know, at 18 or whatever, so we don’t really know what we were before, but he tried to establish how smart I was I guess, and you know, I had a degree, what grades did I get at university, you know, what did I do for a job, that kind of thing. I guess to establish may be where my intelligence was prior to the accident. So it was, yeah it was quite, for someone I think who’d always had good memory, I’d always had a good memory, I’d always been pretty sharp and you know, I wouldn’t say I was always a very, very high achiever, but you know, I’d done very well in some subjects and school and you know, it was quite hard actually, like I was quite scared afterwards to do any kind of quizzes or board games or anything like that. I was actually quite scared because I knew that I’d like to win, and I wouldn’t be winning [laughs]. So, you know, so, yeah, and I think the first time I did do, I was playing some sort of game on a Playstation or something with my neighbour and I knew I was impaired, I knew I wasn’t as good as what I would have been, but I think I still beat him [laughs].

 

 

Jane feels her injury happened at a critical time in her life when people ordinarily would be...

Jane feels her injury happened at a critical time in her life when people ordinarily would be...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And from your own personal experience of brain injury, are there still things in your life that have been affected by your injury?
 
Yeah. Income. Career. I think I mentioned that I lost friends. But I’ve gained really good friends, so I think I’m grateful for knowing, especially I think the friends I made whilst I was unwell. People want to be your friend at your lowest then. They stick around through the good times too, but I can’t say the reverse works. So, yeah.
 
What else? I think my life isn’t probably as stable as what it could have been I think. Yeah, I think your early thirties are quite a crucial time in your career and quite...and probably in your personal life as well. But you’re meant to be kind of at your peak, you know, intellect and creativity and everything I think and to kind of, I do feel a bit sad sometimes that, so that’s okay that’s when, that’s when it happened when I was 30 and so, I think definitely I do still feel loss actually yeah. Yeah. I try to focus on the positive and I try to feel grateful that I’m in the UK in an amazing city and I get to do some of the things but it does sort of feel like plan B sometimes, not plan A.

 

 

Jane said she was very career-orientated before her injury, but now she would be happy with a...

Jane said she was very career-orientated before her injury, but now she would be happy with a...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I would like it not to be, but as a single person with no children, it kind of becomes like actually, I don’t even have a career to throw myself into any more. So I think I’d like it not to be the most important thing, but it’s kind of, there is a gap in my life that I don’t have that fulfilment as well. I think at the moment. So, yeah, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say that I’m as career driven. I’d probably be very happy just to be in something meaningful and earning enough to live on comfortably. You know, and I’d be absolutely fine now. In fact, I probably would prefer to have a bit more spare time, but I’m adjusting to, especially being back in London, that I don’t have that. I mean in some ways since I’ve been in London, I don’t have to drive to work and I can and the working hours are a little bit less in some careers here in the UK than a 35-hour week versus 40-plus at home. So I’m not, I have probably made a deliberate decision to be here and know that I don’t have to be working 50, 60-hour weeks necessarily, because we are quite hardworking in New Zealand, so yeah. So there are some things that are better but.

 

Jane wonders if she could cope with having children. She thinks she might worry about and be over...

Jane wonders if she could cope with having children. She thinks she might worry about and be over...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And do you think that your experience so far will have any bearing on your parenting?
 
I think I would be very, very over-protective about children’s heads probably. I’m bit worried about that actually, because I’m from New Zealand and I quite like the idea of letting children rough and tumble a bit as well. But I know that I get quite cagey about children getting hit on the head. So, I think I worry about that. I probably do worry, like I’ve just spent some time with my friend and her two little children in the last few days and I do think it looks exhausting actually and I do worry about that, but I think probably any one sane should worry about their having children. So probably, you know, I just have to get on with it. But yeah, I do sometimes think, “Oh gosh could I cope, actually cope?” with [laughs] like two year olds and babies and crying and screaming, but I think the advice that the psychologist gave me back in New Zealand about just making decisions about what’s important and, and like I think she said, “Look if you can’t breastfeed, so what.” Like, just, you know, and I’d be absolutely pro-breast feeding. But she was like, “If you’re too tired.” You know, and I think, I think maybe I have learnt to cut myself a bit of slack as a result of the accident, so, which is probably good to go on to motherhood cutting yourself slack as well, so yeah.

 

 

Jane avoided family gatherings after her injury because she felt her family did not understand...

Jane avoided family gatherings after her injury because she felt her family did not understand...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think given my circumstances with having my father with a severe brain injury I kind of joke that you probably almost need to chop your head off to equal that in terms of such a traumatic thing to go through. Yeah, I think I, I didn’t really know that my family didn’t believe that there was anything wrong with me, but it did come out that they didn’t, and I had to actually cut off contact with them for a while, because I couldn’t, I needed to get better, and I got too upset dealing with it, and I think it did impact on my rehabilitation. Getting upset and not sleeping was not very good and my sister had sent me quite a nasty email and really abusive and pretty much told me I was crazy and making it up to get attention. I wouldn’t recommend a brain injury to get attention. That’s probably not a good idea. But, rob a bank it would much more effective. 
 
But yeah, Mum did realise and she apologised, but it was a very, very lonely time and I still find with extended family I don’t really know how to, what they think of me. And I don’t really given that no one came to visit, no one helped, no one sent a card.
 
Yeah, I’ve avoided a few family gatherings, because I don’t know, I haven’t been able to face a whole bunch of people who might not know me, and like my sister and brother have both got, kind met boyfriends and girlfriends at that time, about that period, so there were kind of other people on the scene that I didn’t know that had probably only heard bad stuff. And I just made decisions. They also usually did them on Sunday nights which was not a good night for me either. So usually I wanted to be resting, particularly when I started working, I’d spend all day in bed on Sundays sometimes. So, no one, no one ever, and I haven’t spent Christmas with my family since before the accident as well. 

 

Previous Page
Next Page