• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Joanna Dalton-Davis

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am from Switzerland.

I'd had a great day helping to run an athletics competition; it was a beautiful hot day in June 2000. I was a primary school teacher doing a Masters in Education with hopes of becoming a deputy head at school.

As I drove home, I was involved in an RTA going about 60mph, when a man coming towards me turned around to look at his crying. Head on collision. My fiancé was in the car behind & says I was unconscious for around half an hour. I was taken by helicopter to hospital and have PTA of 5 weeks, with 'islands of memory'. I would often be found wandering the corridors of the hospital.

I had suffered a coup contra coup injury and an MRI showed bleeding in my right frontal lobe. I also broke my left collar bone & right knee cap.

The accident happened in Switzerland where I live, although I'm English. I was discharged after 5 weeks with no rehabilitation. I remember being terrified of closed doors and the dark when I got home. I was scared to go out on my own & found speaking French challenging.

The neurologist who was in charge of my case saw me in August 2000, 2 months after the accident, and told me I could 'go back to work and forget all about it'!

My doctor then sent me for some neuropsychological tests; I could think of 2 words beginning with S in 2 minutes - not ideal for a primary school teacher!! I was prescribed 6 sessions with a neuropsychologist who worked on helping me to recognize & name everyday objects, copy patterns & pictures & develop my vocabulary.

When I did go back to work in January 2001 it was a disaster. I had forgotten how to teach & manage the children. I was exhausted & suffered what I now know was aphasia, which still occurs from time to time. I became increasingly stressed and exhausted but unable to sleep. After 2 weeks of sleeping no more than an hour or so at night & teaching 60%, I completely cracked up & could not stop crying. A psychiatrist signed me off work until September 2001.

In 2005, State benefits decided that I was 40% disabled, at which point no financial aid is provided. I have suffered 2 more meltdowns since then, working 50 or 60% and finding the demands of a class of children, the planning, organizing & marking of work and the continual, full-on nature of working with children exhausting.

The State agreed to pay for training in 2010 to allow me to work with dyslexic children in small groups. The training was exhausting, with lectures all day and 'homework' each night. I was in tears by the last day as I couldn't see how I could cope with it all. Dyslexia Action, who organized the training, were inclusive & understanding. I failed the recorded assessment of a student the first time; it involved so much organization that I found it too hard. I worked incredibly hard and was allowed to retake the assessment. I was so pleased that I passed the second time around.

I have worked as a dyslexia specialist teacher for a year. I thoroughly enjoyed this work and the progress which the children were making. I had just done my first week of my second year, when I had an epileptic seizure. At this point, my doctor said 'that's enough, you cannot carry on teaching any more'. She was convinced that after being signed off 100%, the State would contact me.

An MRI, the first I'd had since the initial TBI, showed extensive scarring to my right frontal lobe. An EEG showed that I am not epileptic, but the withdrawal of a benzodiazepine that I had been taking to deal with anxiety, coupled with the scarring, led to the seizure. The neurologist that I am now seeing understands TBI; I wish that I had seen him at the beginning.

After 6 months of no work, my doctor wrote to the State about me & they have finally sent me forms to fill in (for the 3rd time). I sent them off today, so please wish me luck!!

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