Codey Sharp had dreams of becoming an RAF pilot before a brain injury changed his life forever at the tender age of 17. Six years on from his ordeal, Codey now has a very different dream of becoming a lawyer with hopes of one day changing British laws to improve the lives of people affected by brain injury.
Born and raised in Cumbria and from a military background, Codey was like any other teenager before his brain injury.
In 2008, Codey was returning home after picking up friends from town after a night out in London when his car was forced off a bridge and crashed into a river, changing his life in an instant.
"After the accident, three of my friends who were passengers in the car were rushed to hospital in an ambulance," said Codey. "But I was in the worst state and I had to wait for a helicopter to airlift me to Preston Royal Hospital in London.
"When I arrived at the hospital, I spent more than 36 hours in an operating theatre to relieve the swelling in my brain. I suffered a heart attack while in theatre, which further complicated things. The next five-and-a-half weeks of my life were spent in a coma.
Even when I began to regain consciousness it was like living in a hazy dream.
When Codey was well enough to travel, the doctors transferred him to a hospital closer to his home in Carlisle. But, if luck would have it, the ambulance transporting Codey became involved in a road accident and he suffered further head injuries as a result of the second crash.
"I was in hospital for nearly 18 weeks and I could hardly move," said Codey. "I had gone from being a larger-than-life, semi-professional sportsman to someone who couldn't walk, wash or even feed myself.
"Even though I made it back home in time to celebrate my 18th birthday with my family, my whole had life changed. I was a teenager who should have been preparing to go to university, but I was instead having to re-learn the most basic life tasks like walking and even using the toilet."
After six years of rehabilitation, 24-year-old Codey now lives independently in Newcastle, but his recovery still has its challenges.
After failing to pass the compulsory eye-test for becoming a fast-jet pilot following his brain injury, Codey's childhood dream of flying with the RAF came to an abrupt end.
And yet more problems were on the horizon.
"In the early days of my recovery, I was very lucky to receive excellent follow-up care," said Codey. "However, I recently found it difficult to access and negotiate the hours of professional support I need. There were so many unanswered questions.
"Having been directed to the Helpline by the Headway team last month, I was grateful that the nurse-led team was able to provide practical advice and support with regards to my situation.
"Since sustaining my brain injury, I prefer e-mails to telephones as drafting e-mails gives me time to gather my thoughts before responding to people. It's great to know the Helpline offers this type of correspondence as an option."
Undeterred by his limitations, Codey recently managed to complete a law course that will enable him to become a legal secretary and hopefully work towards further qualifications.
"I have always been good at constructing arguments and I started to think that perhaps law could be a good path forward for me," said Codey.
"The only problem is that memory loss was - and still is - a huge issue I faced as a result of my brain injury, and the exam-based nature of law degrees means that I may be forced to drop out of courses before I even get going.
"In the first few weeks of my recovery, my memory span was limited to about ten seconds. Even now, I can remember things that happened today but often have to be reminded of them tomorrow."
"The problem is that people with brain injuries often seem 'fine' on the outside and - even if someone qualifies for additional support in exams - the provisions offered by universities for people who are living with memory loss or other hidden consequences of brain injury are simply insufficient.
"I am determined to get a good job so that I can show people with similar experiences to me that living with a brain injury doesn't have to stop you from getting the top jobs. I won't give up!"
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