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Support Services

Joel Campbell

Personal Stories

Joel Campbell

This is Joel's story (with the help of his sister Carla and mother Mary) about his return to citizenship in the Brisbane suburbs...

Joel Campbell's life was on track. He was a well respected up and coming IT consultant, had a girlfriend, and owned his own unit at Redcliffe. Life was looking okay - until a rainy night a hit and run driver ploughed into him as he was walking along a footpath. The crushing accident left Joel, then 24, brain-damaged. He was in a coma for a month and could not dress himself or tie his shoes for the next three months. At first he could speak only a few words. Instead of returning to his job as a junior IT consultant with a prominent bank, he was learning to read and starting over on his ABCs. The accident had changed his life forever.


Joel: "I still can't remember the accident at all. In fact, that whole period of my life is still very confusing. It was a really bad time because it was painful inside and out."

Emergency workers at the accident scene found Joel unconscious and trapped in the remains of his car. He underwent over ten hours of surgery to repair compound fractures in arms, both legs and pelvis and the numerous lacerations he received. The surgery was a success. However, his most serious injury was inoperable- being left with the after effects of a serious brain injury.

Now eight years on, the days of rehabilitation specialists are long gone and Joel has returned to life in the community. As with any hit and run accident, there was no compensation payout and no one was held responsible for what happened.

Joel: "I don't feel any different but people seem to … treat me differently. I know I speak funny now but I can't help that… the accident took everything away … it took my job, my girlfriend, my friends. I wish I had a job. But no one wants me even though I'm smart… I used to work in computers at the Bank. I tried to get training with an employment service to go back to work but I had problems with trying to understand what they were saying to me…. and the person there thought I was too slow … and the training was hard because I got tired a lot, not like I used to be. Sometimes I get really frustrated that I can't be who I used to be."

Carla: "Getting a job is something that we all wish Joel will achieve, but realistically feel that it is very ambitious. Joel needs very specific support to overcome his short-term memory problems, speech difficulties, anger management issues and his lack of awareness. He would need a great deal of assistance in a supported employment framework that understands his unique problems… we just can't see it happening at the moment. The disability employment service just didn't understand his issues. Although it's funny… he's still so intelligent and capable in many ways."

Joel: "Centrelink don't understand me. I have to keep repeating what I say to them. I can't understand their forms now... then they stopped paying me because I forgot to put the forms in. I had to get my sister to talk to them…"

Carla: "Our family understand the Joel speaks but people who don't know him have great difficulty. He also has trouble finding the right words to say and this often confuses people further. Short-term memory loss is perhaps his biggest barrier to living as he used to. He has trouble remembering medication, dates, appointments… we've had to become his short-term memory."

As with most relationships after an ABI, Joel and his girlfriend Dana split within 12 months under the stress of events.

Joel: "I wish I had a girlfriend. I really missed Dana at first. Now I wish I had someone else. I used to live on my own… now I live back at home with Mum and Dad. But I can't even meet someone. I'm just not popular like I used to be."

Carla: "Joel really missed Dana… he became very down when she left. He attended a social group for people with a disability but he was aggressive towards some of the females there and was asked to leave. He didn't really mean to be. Since his accident he loses his temper more often - particularly if he gets rejected in some way. Another problem is his sexual disinhibition - he can be really inappropriate towards girls, both physically and verbally. He seems totally unaware of how he impacts on others."

Joel: "Can't understand why they say I'm angry all the time. I'm not really. I just want to be who I was before. The doctor gives me 'happy pills' to make me feel okay but I'd rather be like I used to be."

Carla: "Joel was diagnosed with serious depression shortly after the accident. Even now, 8 years on, his moods and emotions can swing enormously. We really try and listen to what he is telling us about how he feels and try and keep his doctor in the loop. We tried to get Joel into the local Mental Health clinic but they said they wouldn't see him because his depression was caused by brain injury. For so long everyone was concerned with how the brain injury was affecting him but it was also about how he was feeling. I just wish we could get him some help."

Joel: "I hadn't voted before the accident, what's the point? I tell Mum and Dad and Dana all the time about how unfair things are…. like how I can't get a job or a place to live and things. I can't even drive anymore. I was thinking of renewing my licence but mum says I'm not ready yet. I didn't argue with her too much because I know she's worried about me. Actually I'm a bit scared of cars to tell you the truth."

Carla: "Joel has voted at the past few elections (he just doesn't remember) but it was difficult for him. Once again he becomes confused with all the boxes and paper and the whole process is too much for him. I guess voting is just the obvious one that people think 'Oh he looks OK and he can vote, so he must be alright.' But it's almost as if his rights as a citizen to express freely his convictions and opinions are gone. The only medium he has is through the family and it's difficult for us to take his concerns about how he feels shut out from society to anyone else. We too have our lives to lead… that doesn't mean that we wouldn't stand up for Joel, but it's just that we are under so much pressure as it is."

Joel: "I used to live on my own for a while but I got evicted because I kept forgetting to pay my rent. I tried to get another place to live but all I could get was a boarding house. I tried it for a while but it was the pits. I don't want to live with Mum and Dad now but I have no where else to go. I wouldn't mind living with Carla but she's married and that. I'd probably be in the way."

Carla: "Joel did try renting but failed to pay the rent on his unit and would spend this money on other things. He can't manage his money at all anymore and even though we tried to show him how to budget, it just didn't work. His short-term memory stops him getting anywhere. The boarding house didn't work either. Joel didn't get on with some of his neighbours and there was a lot of theft and alcohol abuse there. At the moment the only option is for Joel to live with our parents where he can get the daily support that he needs."

Mary (Joel's Mother): "We were devastated when Joel had his accident but we were grateful to have our son alive. But he's not the same person. He gets so angry and can't seem to understand that he has changed. His friends don't come around anymore and every time we try to get someone to help him, they say they can't because he has a brain injury. When he left hospital we naturally assumed that there would be lots of services to help him but there aren't. It's as if he no longer exists.  We filled out a lot of forms from the Government to get Joel lifestyle support but he didn't get it. They said there were too many other people who were worse off. I don't understand why nobody will help him."


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