Sitting by the hospital bedside of her boyfriend, Sarah Sayers couldn’t stop reading the last text she received from him, it read: “You are my favourite in the whole world.”
But Sarah knew no matter what person awoke from the coma, no matter how hard life became, she would stay with him.
James sustained a severe brain injury after a fall on night out in London in 2010.
The injury mainly affected his frontal lobe but he also sustained multiple skull fractures and a bleed on the brain.
He was placed in an induced coma to help stabilise his condition.
In the following days his loved ones were called into the hospital numerous times to be told he would die, and they needed to say goodbye.
Those first few months following the incident were the worst moments of Sarah’s life. Watching the man she loved fight for his life, she couldn’t stop questions racing through her mind.
She said: “I questioned absolutely everything. Will he survive? Will he be disabled? Will he know who I am? Will he still love me? Will he ever drive again? Will he work? Will he be able to have children? The list is endless and the silliest things come into your head.
“It was a very dark time for me because the person who would support me through the bad times was James.
“We weren't together long before his brain injury and so I had to make a big decision about our relationship when he had his accident.
“I decided I wanted to be with him no matter what, and if he were to need life-long care then I would always stick by him and make sure he was okay.”
James underwent surgery to remove a large section of his forehead which allowed his brain to swell without causing more damage.
He was taken out of the coma but suffered epileptic seizures and for a long time he was disoriented.
He could recognise people and their names but filled in memory gaps with random information and couldn't understand why he was in hospital.
Sarah, who lives in South London, said that her mood became very low as she struggled to come to terms with James’ injuries and maintain some sort of normal working life.
She said: “I felt like I was walking around with black cloud hanging over me, I began to drink too much, smoke too much, didn’t eat properly. My life just slipped into a relentless routine.
“I went into work early and left leave early so I could catch the bus for the long journey to St George's Hospital to sit with James.
“I would stay for an hour and make him eat. I was the only person who could make him, so I would buy his favourite meals on the way and then feed him. Then I would catch the bus back and sit on my own at home feeling depressed.
“Sleep was my favourite time because I wouldn't have to deal with the harsh reality. For a few minutes each morning I would wake up and forget how bad things were, but then I would suddenly realise and slip into depression again.”
As time passed James got stronger, five months into his recovery he had more surgery, this time to fit a titanium plate into his skull where the large section of forehead bone was missing.
The operation was successful and James recovered well enough to eventually be able to return home and even begin working again - only a year after his injury took place.
Remarkably, James, 30, now works full-time as a financial analyst – a field he had no experience in before his injury.
Sarah, 33, said: “It’s quite amazing that James returned to work, and such a high flying one, so soon after his injury. In fact neuro-psychologists and neurologists have said his recovery is the best they've ever seen from his level of severe injury and his case is remarkable.
“The injury does still affect him in some ways though; he has to take epilepsy medication for life, which is a small price to pay to be well again. He has no sense of smell, but his taste is still there fortunately. He is also suffers from fatigue, but it is manageable.
“We know we have been fortunate in some ways, but James’ story is great example to show that things can get easier - with time it can get better.”
Sarah said she also wanted to share her and James’ story to help others who might be sitting at the bedside of a loved one – not knowing what the future might hold.
She said: “Don’t lock yourself away. I refused to talk about the way I felt and drowned my sorrows in alcohol.
“You should seek support and not try to be the hero, don't work through it all on your own.
“Make sure you talk to someone at Headway and utilise their factsheets, we did this and it really helped us to understand what we were facing and that there was actually help out there for us.
“Never ever give up hope, you may have to adapt to a different life, but different isn't always bad. Things will always feel better over time, so allow yourself time to grieve, don't feel guilty, take time out and let time heal you.
“We have stuck together, even during the hardest days and have had to adapt to each other again.
It was process and it took time, but we knew we were meant to be together.
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