Every 30 minutes, a child or young person in the UK will acquire a brain injury. This could be the result of an accident, an illness such as meningitis or encephalitis, a poisoning, a stroke or a brain tumour.
A brain injury has a devastating and life-long impact on a child and their whole family. Bones can mend and scars can heal but a brain injury stays with you for life and impacts on everything you think, feel and do. The full effects might be unclear until the brain finishes developing, around age 22. Parents often remark that no sooner have they dealt with one problem than another one emerges.
Since the damage is often hidden, with few physical symptoms, many children are misunderstood or even misdiagnosed and don’t receive the support they require. Difficulties faced may include problems with fatigue, memory loss, concentration, impulse control, mobility, speech and vision, and changes to personality.
Melissa was knocked down by a car while walking home from school, aged 8. She suffered 5 bleeds on her brain and was in a coma. Mum Barbara said, “My world was turned upside down. We were told to say our goodbyes that day. But our little princess was a fighter. She came out of her coma then all we could do was wait and see if she would fully recover. Anybody that knows Melissa is well aware that she likes to talk. I just couldn’t imagine how she would be not being able to chat.”
However, Melissa made good progress in hospital and very quickly began to walk, talk and feed herself. Says Barbara, “It was like a miracle; we were getting our little girl back.” However, issues gradually started to arise at school, “Melissa was becoming so unhappy and lonely. This broke my heart. She was aware that she was different from before the accident. This was the stage that we realised we needed help and support.”
“The Child Brain Injury Trust helped us and the school to recognise Melissa’s needs. Their specialist staff went into school to train the teachers and work with other children to give them a better understanding of brain injury. They’ve been a valuable support; helping us cope with issues caused by the brain injury in a child-friendly way. They’ll be involved with Melissa all through school.”
The Child Brain Injury Trust aims to raise awareness amongst professionals working with children about this condition and the support we offer to families and professionals. Anyone can refer to our service, simply contact our helpline on 0303 303 2248 or visit our website for more information www.childbraininjurytrust.org.uk.
This year we are staging our first ever Scottish conference, thanks to support from Digby Brown Solicitors. Taking place in Edinburgh on 12th November, with reduced price places for public sector staff and parents/carers, this event will showcase academic research and successful interventions. Bringing together professionals and families, it offers opportunities to network, learn new information, develop a greater understanding of brain injury and improve practice and care for families. For information and tickets visit http://tinyurl.com/cbitscot13info.