In Dec 2013, we left the sunny shores of Sydney to return to London, for a stint after 17 years living overseas. We had some apprehensions but also excitement about a different path and opportunities. Like most people, we had a plan of what we hoped to achieve in the following few years.
Less than 6 months in and Joe was establishing himself in his new role at work, we were in the process of getting and setting up a home in London, we had managed our first European trip to Barcelona and we were looking forward to a family wedding in Spain. We were grateful to be closer to family and were enjoying catching up with friends on this side of the world and had a lot to look forward to.
Then out of nowhere, the course of lives changed beyond imagination.
In June 2014, Joe suffered a severe brain haemorrhage from an unexpected brain aneurysm which had ruptured. Our lives were thrown in a direction we could never have imagined. Fifty percent of people with a brain haemorrhage of this type do not make it past 48 hours and Joe had to be put into a medically induced coma for two and a half weeks. He was not expected to survive when he was weaned off the coma drugs, but he did, and was then given a high percentage possibility of being left in a semi-conscious vegetative state for the rest of his life. Joe has bravely and determinedly proved these odds otherwise.
Surviving is a massive hurdle and comes with immense gratitude. However, the brain and the body rarely bounces back to its former state, and what lies ahead after survival is a long journey to recoup and relearn as many skills as possible that were previously taken for granted. The ability to do something seemingly straight forward as open an eye or swallow cannot be assumed after a trauma to the brain.
Joe’s brain haemorrhage caused a stroke which led to left side weakness and many every day functions performed by parts of his brain that sustained injury have been affected. He also developed ‘fluid on brain’, which is a common complication and subsequently led to four further operations and another smaller bleed. The path of recovery has been far from straight-forward.
As a couple, we have learnt so much in the past three years and have been greatly inspired by others who have shared their stories, difficulties, improvements and coping strategies with us. We are grateful to our family, friends, and colleagues who have supported us patiently from afar, often hearing little back but holding faith. If by sharing our story and being a contributor to the Brain Injury Touchpoint site this helps others in their journey after a brain injury and builds awareness for all the ‘survivors’ out there, then we are humbled and feel grateful to be of service.
Joe spent a year in different hospitals, and now over three years on our ‘work’ continues to be centred around intensive therapy.
The journey is one of hope, progress and new achievements, but also hard work, pain and grief. We plan to share all angles and help contribute to building awareness of brain injury and what it means to survivors and their families. We never imagined this would happen to us. But it did. It can happen to anyone . . .
Feel free to catch up with us on our Joe’s Journey blog page.