Hi, I’m Brooke and I’m a volunteer in the gym at BASIC. I’ve had a traumatic brain injury since 15th May 2007 when I was a student in Manchester. Walking home after a night out, I was hit on the pavement by a speeding car as it lost control under braking outside McDonald’s on Oxford Road.
My head broke the glass of the windscreen, but it wasn’t just glass, it was toughened, shatterproof, auto glass and my head put a big hole in it, breaking both my eye sockets, my left cheekbone, nose and jaw. It also cracked my teeth and three vertebrate in my neck.
I do feel slightly guilty about what I put my mum through. I know it doesn’t make sense but I do. She got a phone call at 3 am and claims she knew instantly it was something to do with me (it usually was!) – I’m told that until I have kids of my own, I won’t understand that, but maybe you can if you do. On the phone was a nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary who told her that I’d been involved in a very serious accident, was unconscious with a very serious brain injury and she needed to get to Manchester as quickly as she could. When Mum asked if I’d still be alive when she got there, the nurse repeated to her to get there as quickly as she could.
I was in a coma for 16 days, had stayed in two hospitals, before I was discharged 5 and a half months later on 27th October.
I went back to my hometown of Scarborough to start my rehabilitation. In rehab you’re treated like a baby, it hurts your pride, especially as before my injury I’d travelled around the world, then moved to Manchester to start university. I wanted so much to move pick up my old life in Manchester, but being back in Scarborough constantly exhausted with a brain injury made doing anything with my life seem like a pipe dream.
I would get so down, the future seemed so bleak like I had nothing to live for. All this was made worse by the growing craze of social media, seeing all the people I knew enjoying their lives. When you’re in that negative frame of mind you focus on everything you can’t do.
Fast forward 6 years and I moved back to Manchester, something I was adamant that I wanted from the start. I think my family just gave in and stopped trying to talk me out of it.
So, I was back in Manchester. Now what? I had the attention span of a goldfish, I was always exhausted and needed to go to bed at least twice a day, I hadn’t worked for the last 7 years, I’d come out of the toilet in a restaurant and forget where I was sat. How could I possibly hope to get a job and survive in Manchester?
It was in the hospital that I first heard of a place called BASIC, so I got in touch. It was they that provided the opportunity for me to achieve my seemingly impossible dream of living a normal life. They were the people that let me come in and work as a volunteer for just a few hours a week, let me take breaks when I needed and accept that if I couldn’t come in it’s because I was too tired!
Not only that, but they offered me Captain’s Log Cognitive rehab, help with my memory in the memory class and they’d give me career guidance for when I was ready to move on in life. If I didn’t feel ready, they’d be totally fine with that. BASIC would simply be there for me whatever I decided to do.
I originally wanted to be a personal trainer, but the course wanted me to do an assessment over a full day, something I can’t do due to fatigue and they refused to let me do it in two halves. The lack of public understanding of brain injury made me mad, so I started writing a blog, attempting to explain to someone who doesn’t know about different aspects of brain injury.
I also started doing what I’m doing now, public speaking, visiting colleges, conferences and charity events in both North Yorkshire and Manchester, telling my story and explaining about brain injury. BASIC gave me ideas on who to contact, encouraging me to do it myself, giving me a massive boost in confidence.
In 2013 before BASIC, I was someone with zero confidence, thinking I’d never do anything constructive with my life and having great difficulty even getting off at the right stop on the tram. I’m now confident enough to speak to this room, I know I’m helping people through my blog and I’ve got a passion for raising public awareness of the hidden disability of brain injury. I’ve even got my license back and I’m driving.
In the last two years, I’ve seen BASIC transformed as it now has the CAREN and 2 other fantastic pieces of virtual reality equipment. I’ve been lucky enough to have a go on them all and they are all amazing. It’s so exciting how many people this technology will help in the future. BASIC has dreamed big and that’s exactly what they’ve encouraged me to do!
I purposely haven’t mentioned staff names at BASIC because I didn’t want to miss anyone. There isn’t anyone there who hasn’t been fantastic, from the receptionists on the front desk to Wendy upstairs (ok, one name, but you already knew that!). BASIC has not only given me my life back, they have rehabilitated me and helped me to build a better one than I ever dreamt of before my brain injury.
What a truly wonderful place. Thank you so much!