Headway Hertfordshire - supporting people affected by brain injury

Kate Oliver's Story

Car crash coma: how Kate battled back.

Kate can't remember a thing about her horrific car crash in
October 2010. But she was told that her car spun round in
the road after hitting a tree. No-one knew how it had
happened or why. She was airlifted to hospital, and lie in a
coma for three months - the last six weeks of which she lay
with her eyes open but she couldn't move or talk.

When she came round she was told she had suffered brain
injury, 'and I had to learn everything all over again,' she said.
'How to speak, to read, to write… everything.' The left hand
side of her upper body was paralysed and she found herself
in a wheelchair.

Kate had huge support from her parents, and two older
brothers, and after two further spells of residential rehab she
was discharged home.

'When you are discharged the unit believes they have done
all they can and further progress is not possible,' Kate said,
'but we didn't go along with that and for two years I had a
private physio and continued to make great gains.'

Kate had learned the most basic skills in rehab but she was
still wheelchair-bound and she was determined not to be.
'Now I can walk without the chair, although I use it for long
distances,' she said. 'I have had great help from Headway
and now, at 24, I feel I have my life back.'

Kate regularly meets other young people with brain damage
and finds this Headway group stimulating. 'I just love to
mingle with young people like myself who know what it is to
suffer brain damage and have to fight your way back to as
much of normality as you can. Others can never understand,
they will never know.'

Kate was a croupier before the accident and she revelled in
her work. 'I just loved it, but I realise I am very unlikely to get
back to that because I still have paralysis in one of my hands
and a croupier needs both their hands.'

Kate is not sure whether she will eventually study or find
other work, perhaps working with people who have suffered
similar trauma. 'But I know whatever I seek to do, my family
will be right behind me. You know, sometimes when you lack
the willpower you need someone to urge you on. My family
have been just brilliant.'