On 25th October 2009 a 19 year old Richard Middleton visited some friends in the city centre to watch match of the day on TV. By the end of the evening he had a headache so one of his friends gave him a lift home in the car. He went straight up the stairs when he came into the house telling his Mum, Tracey, he didn't feel to well. He went into the bathroom, was promptly sick and passed out.
In November 2010 Richard woke up. He remembers somebody walking past his bedside and remarking 'oh my goodness, he's awake!' Just over an hour later Tracey arrived at Addenbrookes Hospital having made the journey from Norwich 'Hello sweet cheeks' said Richard to his Mum. No words or emotion can suitably capture a mothers feelings on hearing these three short words from her son.
As soon as Richard realised how long he had been unconscious for his first thought was that he had missed the football World Cup, however small comfort was gained as he learned of the abject failure of the England team in South Africa. Richard continues to tell me his story from information given to him by both Tracey, the doctors, nurses and other specialist staff after he had re-gained consciousness.
Richard learned that he had suffered a massive aneurism brought about by a congenital disorder known as arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. This is an abnormal tangle of vessels in the brain in which one or more arteries are directly connected to one or more veins. Veins are typically thin-walled vessels that cannot accept high-pressure blood flow for extended periods. The result is that AVMs can rupture and bleed into the brain. In Richard's case blood was literally flowing from his ears while Tracey saved his life providing resuscitation as she waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Statistically Richard had a 3% chance of surviving his aneurism. A gamma knife was used to quarterise the bleeding and two shunts were implanted to remove excess blood from the brain. With damage predominantly to the right side of his brain, it was the left side of his body that was most affected by the bleed. Richard's vision, balance, memory and digestive system were also severely affected by the aneurism and continue to be disrupted by the drug regime required to maintain his health.
Richard first started coming to Headway Norfolk & Waveney four years after the aneurysm, he found it difficult to be away from Tracey but quickly developed independence, self confidence and friendships. He has improved his cognitive skills through working with the memory group and expressive art, he has also joined the literacy and numeracy group which provides 1:1 support in improving his reading and writing skills. Two years after joining Headway Richard says 'I can remember things much better than I used to. Woodwork and creating things is satisfying and I like having something to show for my efforts.'
'My health is my absolute top priority now, I just want to keep fit and well. Ryan is my best mate and a couple of years ago Mum asked him if he would like to work as my carer. He was doing it anyway and was really pleased to be asked. It's great for me, I still need some help in dealing with the effects of the aneurism but with Ryan we can get out of the house and enjoy the things that any young person would want to do.'
At the Headway base in Roseberry Road in Norwich, Richard is well respected by staff and other clients alike. He currently attends twice a week and brings with him the positivity and sense of humour that has helped him to get through such a traumatic experience. Richard saves his last words for Tracey; 'The aneurism happened to me but the impact for Mum was just as traumatic. I simply would not be here is it was not for Mum.'