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Support Services

Missing In Action

Personal Stories
 
 
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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 someone else.

 

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 treatment.


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 media.


"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".

 

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