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Wesley

Age at interview: 30
Brief Outline: Wesley had a traumatic brain injury about 12 years ago. He fell off a moped when he was on holiday in Turkey. He was in a coma for several months and when he came round, spent time in a rehabilitation unit. He now has some memory problems.
Background: Wesley is single. He was living with his mum at the time of the interview, but was in the process of looking for a new place. He works as a dustman. His ethnic background is White English.

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Just before he turned 18, Wesley fell off a moped whilst on holiday in Turkey and had a severe brain injury. 
 
After four months in a coma, he spent several months as a patient in a rehabilitation unit working with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and clinical psychologists. 
 
When he was discharged, Wesley was given a file describing the problems caused by his injury. However, this was written in language that was difficult to understand. 
 
Wesley describes having a brain injury as like being reborn because “you’ve got to learn to do nearly everything again”, like “walk, talk and go to the toilet”. Whilst Wesley can do all these things again he still has some problems with coordination, remembering things and he often feels tired. 
 
There are certain things he no longer does. For example, he used to be a dancer, but his memory and coordination problems made this difficult. He videoed his choreography to help him practice at home and remember the steps, but in the end he decided to stop dancing. 
 
Although he could not return to work Wesley has been able to find a job with the help of his psychologist, who arranged for him to do some unpaid work at a supermarket where he eventually became employed. He now works as a dustman.
 
Wesley enjoys going out with his friends. He has been told not to drink a lot of alcohol because his brain injury increases the effects it has on him. His friends say he behaves aggressively when he’s drunk. It’s hard for Wesley to take them seriously because they get drunk too. 
 
The local council gave him a Freedom Pass, which he can use to travel free of charge on public transport around London. He thinks this is a good idea, but would have preferred to be given money that he could use to pay his hospital bills from the treatment he received in Turkey that was not covered by his travel insurance. 
 
Wesley’s mum and sister are the people he turns to for information. He chooses not to join a support group because he thinks he should learn about his own problems and not have to rely on a support group for help.

 

 

When he was in a coma, Wesley’s mum made a photo album of him and used it when he came round to...

When he was in a coma, Wesley’s mum made a photo album of him and used it when he came round to...

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I fell off a moped in Turkey. 
 
Okay.
 
Well that’s all I know. From what I was told, or what the newspaper cuttings and that said. On a moped, hit a pothole, came off the moped and I was in a coma for like four months. So me, personally, I don’t really know too much about what happened apart from Mum and my family keeping notes and paper cuttings and photos, about what happened and what I went through to get to where I am today. 
 
So, on that basis the memory just sort of forgets all of that. Which is probably a good thing, because I wouldn’t particularly want to remember and go over the injury every night before I go to bed, which is quite nice. Which, no, I actually enjoy that bit.

 

 

Wesley’s travel insurance did not cover the cost of flying him home, so his mum had to pay for...

Wesley’s travel insurance did not cover the cost of flying him home, so his mum had to pay for...

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They had all gone, where, I think they all went to the Isle of Wight for a nice four or five day break. I think they’d been there one or two days, or they were somewhere and they got a phone call. I think it was from my sister that or a very good friend of the family that I was in hospital in Turkey in a coma, you know, don’t know if I was going to die or make it and I think they just came back from wherever they were, rushed back here, spoke to certain individuals and tried to get an aeroplane, my Mum and my sister out to Turkey as soon as possible just to be by my side with me. And that was about it I believe, because …
 
Oh also the insurance wouldn’t pay out for me. So, and I think bills came to around forty, fifty thousand pounds, which, it was just my Mum here, my Mum, myself and my sister and my Mum couldn’t afford that sort of money, so all of my friends and everything, they were all doing fundraising, like male friends getting their legs waxed, their head shaved and they managed to raise together about £20,000. My Scout movement did a lot of fundraising for me. My dance company did a lot of fundraising for me. It was just everyone I knew had to do a lot of fundraising for me. Because they knew it was my Mother alone, my sister at university, so it was all, everyone had to do fundraising for me. But I think they managed to do it in the end, which was good I think. 

 

 

Wesley has problems using his left arm. He has adapted by using his right arm, but this isn’t...

Wesley has problems using his left arm. He has adapted by using his right arm, but this isn’t...

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Yes. I’ve also learnt to compensate. I’m right handed. Now I do most things with my left hand and my left arm. Just because I’ve had to compensate, like shave, I tried having a few wet shaves with the right hand, and looked like Edward Scissorhands, with all cuts over my face, so I had to compensate shaving with the left hand because I looked like in the film Edward Scissorhands and he’s got all cuts. That looked like me with about seven cuts over my face, because I tried to, I do prefer wet shaving, but I can’t do it because I just cut myself and I have to drink left handed and I think, the only thing I find difficult now, because of all of that, is I can’t write with the left hand, because that’s all, that just looks weird. But it does, have you ever seen a left-handed person write? And they’re like that, and it just looks weird.
 
Okay.
 
So I’m quite glad on that basis that I’m not left handed.
 
So the other thing was there that each time, if you stand up to write it’s better.
 
It is because I lean down onto … If I lean down to write, and I push hard I’m not actually using the elbow so much because everything’s pushed down, which when I have to sign hundreds and hundreds of things at work, I always try and make sure I sign my name first or last, or people are just going to be there half an hour just for my signature, and it’s well, you know, and I take up everyone’s name, so I tend to make sure I’m either one of the first or last. Because of the right arm nerve damage.

 

 

The psychologists Wesley worked with helped him to get a job.

The psychologists Wesley worked with helped him to get a job.

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How soon after your injury did you start to work again?
 
Few years. Yes. I think my first job, what did I do when I come out of hospital? I think it might have been, might have been Waitrose, near the station. But that was it, I think it was Waitrose, because I had, I was going to a special psychology place in [head injury clinic] who you were in contact with. Yes, it was through two psychologists there how I got the job in Waitrose. They came to the interview with me there and they came up with, he’ll work twenty hours a week for nothing. And I didn’t even know about this. This psychologist just suggested it. So I think I ended up working 80 hours for nothing. 
 
And why do you think that they organised that for you?
 
So Waitrose could get 80 hours free labour out of me for nothing.
 
Do you think that was the only reason for it?
 
No, probably not. It was probably so you know, they could see if I was any good at the job. If they liked me, and if I actually liked the job. And then after that I actually got a job out of them. It was only part time; I think 16 hours a week, just pushing trolleys. But from that I was there about three, three and a half years. I kept saying, “Look, you know, can you give me more hours. Can you give me better job?” Within in, and you know, from that I learnt all the different sections. I worked on the fruit and veg for about a year, and year and a bit. 

 

 

Wesley lives with his mum. He would like to get his own place, but can’t afford it just yet. He...

Wesley lives with his mum. He would like to get his own place, but can’t afford it just yet. He...

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So, but yes, it has crossed my mind, but at the moment, until I get my own place sorted out, then no. “Do you want to come round tonight love?” “Yes, where we’re going?” “We’re going back to Mum’s.” Not really going to look too good is it? So until hopefully I’ll have my own place in the next, I don’t know four or five months, because I’ve been looking at places, but I just can’t afford them at the moment.
 
So is it only money that’s holding you back?
 
Oh yeah, yeah. Well the thing is I’ve been with my sister to look at I think, I’ve been with my sister to look at two properties. I’ve been with Mum to look at about three properties. But with the money I earn, I can just about afford it, but then I have to rely on getting help from the government because if I didn’t get help from them on the money I earn, no, I couldn’t afford it. I’ll tell you what I take home, about £250 a week. By the time you’ve paid your rent, your bills, your food, that leaves you with what £80? It’s not really you know, I’d have to give up my mobile phone and everything like that, but I’d I say until I get my own pad, hopefully in about four or five months, then no marriage is off the question you know. But as I said I don’t particularly want to go yet, you know, come back to my place yes. Yes, let me go in first and just tell my Mother you’re coming in. You know, “Mum, Mum she’s coming in and staying the night.” “Yes, she’s staying in the spare room, Wesley.” So I’m going to knock that on the head until I’ve got my own place.
 
I think it’s a little bit weird.

 

 

Wesley has a rehabilitation discharge summary that lists his injuries. He does not find it...

Wesley has a rehabilitation discharge summary that lists his injuries. He does not find it...

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 I just don’t remember anyone else. I just think that’s the memory from the head injury that I just choose. I think it just chooses not to remember them sort of thing.

 
I wonder why that might be?
 
Something to do with the brain I reckon.
 
Okay. It might tell you that in there.
 
Oh it probably does. I haven’t, I’ve never actually read it.
 
So do you want to explain to me what you’re looking at?
 
This is the, the RRU discharge summary. This tells me what injuries I occurred and what things can help me and so things, like I had problems with brain and everything. It says in here the things I can’t do as well as what I used to be able to do. Yes. The ...
 
It’s quite a detailed document isn’t it?
 
Yes. No, I don’t know, what did you ask?
 
No I just asking you explain to me what that was you were looking at.
 
It is the [Regional Rehab Unit name] Discharge Summary, which just confirms what problems I have and that I’m still having difficulty with a bit nowadays. Yes.
 
Okay.
 
So I will be looking at that on a few occasions.
 
Okay do you find things like that are helpful?
 
Not really because I forget about it. When I wake up tomorrow morning and this won’t be as we’re doing it now, I won’t really remember it like that. You know, I’ll think that’s it, have a quick wash, get me clothes on, have a cup of coffee, go to work, work all day and it will just be another day. It will just be another Thursday at work for me and this will just be a distant memory. Not out of choice, but just because it’s pushed to the back of my brain, sort of thing.
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