This is Joel's story (with the help of his sister
Carla and mother Mary) about his return to citizenship in the
A CHANGED LIFE FOREVER
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.
HOW IT IS …
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
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
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."
HAVING A FAIR SAY
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
A PLACE TO CALL HIS OWN
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
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."