Following a traumatic brain injury there is the inevitability of loss that follows. The loss of perhaps one’s cognitive, physical and/or emotional functioning from that of what it used to be or what it could have been.
The process of adjustment is an individual journey. This exhibition shares the stories of five individuals with brain injuries and allows us to explore how not everything is lost after a brain injury and that life and character very much continue in the most individual and unique ways possible.
Rebecca is 20 years old. She was born at 48 weeks gestation following trauma during birth was born flat and blue and developed convulsions.
Rebecca was then diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was 18 months old. She has ataxia (difficulties with coordination and balance) and dystonia (movement disorder that causes muscle spasms and contractions). This affects all four limbs and she is therefore wheelchair dependent. Rebecca is unable to communicate using recognised verbal utterances and so throughout her development, she has established her own way of communicating.
This includes using a combination of head movements to indicate “yes” and “no”, sitting on the floor to write using pen and paper or using her nose to type on her iPad and iPhone. Rebecca also has a very close relationship with her mother who is able to intuitively understand what she is attempting to communicate through gestures, noise and pointing.
Cognitively Rebecca remains intact, but due to her physical disability attended her local special school, Cedars Academy, Gateshead where she flourished both academically and socially. Here, Rebecca was supported to achieve GCSE Foundation Maths Grade C, Functional Skills English Level 2, GCSE Art Grade C and GCSE Full Course PE Grade C. She also achieved her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award which she proudly received at Buckingham Palace earlier this year.
Rebecca left Cedars to continue her studying at Gateshead College where she has undertaken a Level 3 Diploma in Sports Coaching. Prior to her admission the college queried the likelihood of Rebecca being able to engage with the course, however one year on Rebecca has finished her first year with an overall grade of distinction star, she was awarded “student of the year” and is already ahead on her assignments for next year. In the future Rebecca would like to work as a coach for children with special needs.
Rebecca currently lives at home with her mother, step father, sister and her dog Gus. Gus is a Labradoodle, a breed that was carefully selected for its hypoallergenic qualities because of Rebecca’s difficulties with allergies and her chest functioning. With the compensation money received for her injuries at birth, Rebecca has ensured her ongoing care, rehabilitation and access to a meaningful life despite the various barriers that she encounters on a daily basis. She has successfully requested and had built her very own spa pool (to be used for hydrotherapy) and sauna in her back garden, which will help with her on-going rehabilitation.
Rebecca’s mother is aware that to some people the compensation received makes up for the disabilities her daughter has been left with, however she would urge those people to think of any aspect of daily living such as blowing your nose, having a drink, talking to the person next to you, all of which Rebecca is unable to do independently – no amount of compensation makes up for this.
The money received simply helps Rebecca to try and live her life as much as possible in the way any able bodied person would.
Rebecca’s interests outside of her studies and home life include art and Boccia – a precision sport of strategy similar to bowls which is played by people of all capabilities. Some of Rebecca’s artwork is on display at the exhibition and you will notice how Rebecca’s control of her limbs and associated muscle spasms result in a characteristic way of painting with her fingers to incredible effect
Due to Rebecca’s physical disabilities Rebecca uses a ramp and helmet with a pointer which playing Boccia, to push the ball down the ramp with her head. Rebecca plays with a ramp assistant who must sit with her back to the game while she indicates to her which way to move the ramp and at what height the ball should be positioned for her shot. Rebecca did at one time play with the England Talent squad but had to but this on hold to concentrate on her exams, to enable Rebecca to access her chosen college course.
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