Brain Injury: Soap fiction vs fact

by Dianne Yates - partner, head of catastrophic injury and brain injury specialist at Birchall Blackburn Law.

For those of us that watch the soaps, we will have seen the storyline on Coronation Street about the Platt/Tilsley household.

But if you haven’t, Nick is driving a van with his brother David as a passenger. It was struck by a HGV and we see Nick suffering multiple life-threatening injuries including a head injury. He was placed in an induced coma for a number “soap land” weeks. His family maintained a bedside vigil waiting for him to come around.

His family were all warned by various medical sources that he may not make it but if he did, they could not be sure of the consequences of the brain injury and were advised to prepare themselves for a ‘different Nick’ coming out of the coma.

Luckily for David, the brother who caused the accident by grabbing the steering wheel, Nick eventually woke from his coma but, as with a lot of people who suffer brain injury, all was not well.

At this point fiction is on a par with the reality experienced by families of people with brain injuries.

Nick, like many people suffering brain injury, awoke from his coma to see life as he knew it turned upside down. Not only was/is he battling with the physical effects of the accident but also with the more long-lasting difficulties that alter his personality and behaviour.

The pre-accident likeable and easy going Nick has gone and he is now angry, obsessive, irrational and suffers memory difficulties. These symptoms are all too common in those suffering from brain injury and are easily recognised by victims and their families.

Some head injuries, even those termed “minor” which may not have accompanying and obvious physical injuries, very frequently give rise to difficulties with concentration, excessive tiredness, irritability, persistent headaches, dizziness and weakness. All of which can combine to lead to people being labelled “difficult”.

Sometimes victims of this type of head injury are called the ‘walking wounded’ because there are no outward signs of injury.

Brain injuries can cause additional problems or “cognitive effects” such as memory loss, lack of organisational skills, rigidity of thought and lack of self-awareness.

So whether that is as a result of a severe car crash or a ‘bang on the head’, all head injuries need to be taken seriously.

Many of those who wake from comas suffer with amnesia; this can sometimes last a few hours, days, months or even years. We will watch Nick and his recovery over the upcoming episodes and track his progress. Although he has already made remarkable strides, in real life the recovery process is not a quick one.

It is a often long and tortuous process, involving many different specialists who assist with rehabilitation; Neurosurgeons, Neuropsychologists, Neurologists and Occupational Therapists, to name but a few. This process is hard not just for the injured person, but also for their family and friends who often feel helpless and unsupported.

Soaps are after all meant to be entertainment but it will be invaluable to those suffering traumatic brain injuries to raise awareness of the nature of these injuries and their devastating effects.

Leaving the soap world aside for one moment, in the real world, it is important for those who have suffered brain injury (whether arising from a road traffic accident, accident at work, medical negligence or a ‘bang on the head) or for their friends and family, to remember they are not alone.

At Birchall Blackburn Law, we are always there to assist victims,families and friends at the most difficult time in their life.

Although money cannot and does not replace their lost health, job or lifestyle, it can help pay for the best rehabilitation, the purchase of specialist aids and equipment, the renovation/adaption of a property and provide a financial cushion.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain/head injury that was someone else’s fault, Birchall Blackburn Law can help you bring a claim for compensation that will help during the recovery process.

Please no matter how minor the injury is, do not assume that you haven’t got a claim until you have spoken to one of our experts. Dianne Yates - Partner, Head of Catastrophic Injury and Brain Injury Specialist