It was just past midnight on 7th March 2009 when Dudley & Cat left a bar in the centre of Norwich to head home. Hand in hand, they happily walked down the pavement of Westlegate hill. They were completely unaware that the driver of a vehicle coming down the same hill had lost control and was heading straight for them. The young couple were struck directly from behind by the car, which finally came to rest through a shop window.
Miraculously, Cat suffered no serious long term injuries herself. However Dudley had suffered a fractured skull, smashed eye socket, damaged sinus’s and a hairline fracture to his neck. Only later was he diagnosed with Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI). This is a brain injury where damage in the form of extensive lesions in white matter tracts occurs over a widespread area. DAI is one of the most common and devastating types of traumatic brain injury, it is a major cause of unconsciousness and persistent vegetative state after head trauma. Whilst the extent of Dudley’s injury remains ‘hidden’ to the casual observer, he and Cat now live with what is termed as a ‘permanent neurological deficit’.
Dudley was referred to the Colman hospital as part of his rehabilitation. The hospital provides specialist neurological rehabilitation care and support, working with the patient and family to achieve independence and participation skills in society at a suitable level for the patient. The hospital has developed close links with Headway Norfolk & Waveney, ensuring that the pathway of care moves beyond their own specialist intervention and into the wider community.
Headway helped Dudley & Cat to feel a part of a community. The charity gave him a focus for his efforts and motivation to do something he found worthwhile, rewarding and which was beneficial for both his mental and physical health.
Dudley says; 'After the accident I found it hard to come to terms with my brain injury. Whilst on the outside I look the same, my brain injury has made me a different person. I drank and smoked too much for four years. I suffer badly with depression and anxiety amongst other complications. I could not go back to my old job as a financial advisor and am still looking for the right vocation for the new me. In February 2013 my wife came home with a pair of running shoes she had bought for me. Those shoes changed my life again.'
Cat stands quietly but assuredly by Dudley's side; 'It's really hard watching someone you love go through something like this. To start with I wanted to fix what was broken. I worked against the brain injury, telling him not to do this and not to do that. Dudley doesn't have an off switch, for me the breakthrough was accepting and learning to live with the brain injury. The running isn't perfect, he is completely obsessed, but buying those shoes helped us to find something that works and is positive for Dudley and I.'
In February 2016 Dudley came to talk about his brain injury and his running with others who use the specialist services provided by Headway across Norfolk & Waveney. He doesn't want people to think his story is all positive. 'The brain injury was and is devastating, every day I live with it...... but I have had to learn to live with it. It's always important to try new things because if you haven't tried you have no idea what might work for you.’ To be amongst others who really understand what it is to live with a brain injury and to share those experiences has been an invaluable part of discovering who I now am and who I am going to be.'