Missing In Action
Life was working out well for Michael as he finished his night
shift as radio announcer for a major Brisbane radio station. He was
happily married with two young children. Working as a security
guard he had developed an interest in media work which led to an
AIR-TV course in radio and television.
With an outgoing confident personality he was soon acting in major
commercials, presenting in documentaries, modelling and doing bit
parts in series such as Sons and Daughters. In a notoriously
competitive industry it was only a few years before Michael was
rubbing shoulders with famous actors and making the right industry
contacts for a rapidly progressing career....
Despite being completely sober he remembers nothing of the
accident on the Sunshine Coast Motorway. He awoke near the edge of
the road with his car crashed in a deep excavation behind him,
unsure whether he had crawled out himself or been dragged out by
A CHANGED LIFE
At the hospital Michael had a headache but otherwise was alert and
well oriented. A CAT scan revealed a fractured skull and a small
laceration on his forehead was sutured. He was told he had suffered
a simple head injury and was not offered any rehabilitative
The effects on Michael were varied. He had persistent headaches
that could last for days if he concentrated for too long. He could
not drive due to epilepsy which escalated with time. Many of the
effects were consistent with frontal lobe trauma. He had short term
memory problems, fatigue, depression and difficulty with planning,
organising and social interactions.
"Since the accident I feel as if I've been missing in action",
says Michael. "I try to go through the normal pace of life but I
can't do the things I used to be able to do".
He had to cope with the loss of his abilities, talents and above
all his previous identity, what some have described as feeling as
if a stranger is living inside your own skin. The energetic,
confident and organised Michael was replaced by one who avoided
social situations and had trouble with the simplest chores.
THE CUCKOO NEST
Michael's brain injury was not recognised so his depression was
treated under the mental health system which he likened to the film
One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. He was advised years later that the
medication prescribed was inappropriate and may have made his
condition worse. All Michael remembers is feeling that he was being
treated as a crazy person and his despair hit rock bottom.
At this time his previously happy marriage broke up. Michael
attempted returning to 4BK (now known as B105) and was forced to
quit after blackouts and being unable to cope. A string of other
jobs proved equally impossible due to headaches, tiredness and an
inability to cope with other employees.
Michael went from owning a house and having money in the bank, to
being unable to pay the rent and being repeatedly evicted as he
could not financially manage his pension.
Despite the drastic changes in his life Michael believes he has
survived to this point as he is still very motivated.
"The losses to my life are immeasurable. You simply can't put a
price on the loss of marriage, friendships and a promising career",
he says. "But I'm lucky to still have some of my determination and
perseverance from my former life which has got me through the worst
parts so far".
THE INVISIBLE DISABILITY
Families often have difficulty grasping the effects of a brain
injury when their loved one appears fully recovered physically.
Michael found that the description of ABI as an invisible
disability was an apt one.
His family found it hard to understand why he could no longer
work, manage his money effectively or organise his life when these
had been major strengths previously.
"The hardest part has been the frustration of trying to explain
how the effects of my brain injury to family and friends", says
Michael. "On the inside your life has been stood on its head yet on
the outside you still look the same as before".
To compound the problem Michael found that he became impatient or
annoyed very quickly which is typical of a frontal lobe injury. It
was very frustrating being told to get his act together when he was
working incredibly hard to do the most basic things in life.
LOOKING AT THE BRIGHT SIDE...
Things are still difficult for Michael. His financial difficulties
cause him to be evicted frequently and he is very isolated.
Although the effects have been anything but mild, Michael has still
been fortunate in that he has only acquired a mild brain injury. He
did not end up in a vegetative state. He has the mixed blessing of
still retaining insight into his cognitive difficulties. Where many
cannot recognise their cognitive problems Michael is very aware of
them. Although this can be very depressing it is also the crucial
first step to managing them.
Michael still retains his ambitious nature. But instead of
becoming a media personality he is focussing on telling his story
and creating more awareness of acquired brain injury through the
"My message to others is keep persevering and believe in yourself
even if those around you don't understand. And above all keep your
sense of humour".