Putting Brain Injury in the Spotlight


Putting Brain Injury in the Spotlight
Brain injuries are increasing each year across Northern Ireland, with the Western Trust Community Brain Injury Service seeing a 77% increase in referrals in the past five years. The mechanism of injury can happen in seconds but the effects can last a lifetime. In response to this, the Western Trust is working in partnership with Headway and the Cedar Foundation to support ‘Brain Injury Awareness Week’ (14 - 20 May 2018) by inviting the public to join them on a walk to highlight the issue.

The Derry/Londonderry walking event will take place on Wednesday 16 May 2018 at 1pm, meeting at the top of Ebrington Square and walking to Guildhall. Participants in the walk will be treated to a tour of Guildhall, as well as a ‘meet and greet’ with the Mayor. The Enniskillen walk will take place on Monday 14 May at 11.00am and will take in the fabulous surroundings of the Castle Coole estate.

The Western Trust has had an established Community Brain Injury Service since 2002. This is a specialist resource to other service areas by offering advice, consultancy and specialist training on the complex nature of brain injury and the needs of those who have acquired a brain injury, their family and carers. To achieve this, links have been established with other agencies including relevant voluntary and statutory organisations and educational facilities, including Headway and the Cedar Foundation.

There are many more people living with the effects of a brain injury than we might care to imagine. A mild brain injury, frequently referred to as ‘concussion’ often happens in an instant from falls, assaults and sports injuries but its effects may have lifetime consequences. Approximately 3,600 people each year in the Western Trust area will attend hospital with a head injury, but 85% of these will be mild in nature. The other 15% will be moderate to severe in nature requiring care and support as a result of the brain injury. The reality being the majority of survivors are young people, aged 16-28 with a normal life expectancy.

The Western Trust has developed an innovative service where a brain injury specialist nurse receives referrals from the hospital emergency departments to follow-up and help people understand and manage their concussion symptoms to prevent further and longer-lasting complications.

The Trust also has a fantastic facility situated on the grounds of Altnagelvin called Spruce House. Spruce House is a 17 commissioned bed specialist facility.  The team working there led by Rehabilitation Medicine Consultant Dr Danny Smith are skilled in the assessment, evaluation of needs and formulation of a goal directed rehabilitation programme of care for patients who have an acquired brain injury or neuro-disability. Each patient’s programme of care is tailored towards their individual needs and circumstances.  The staff within the unit have experience and expertise in identifying and understanding the effects created by brain injury and neurological disorders, coupled with the resources to assist, educate and facilitate patients in their rehabilitation towards an agreed optimal level of independence.

Dr Shane McCarney, Western Trust Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Community Brain Injury Service Lead Clinician said: “We are grateful to be able to work alongside our colleagues in Headway and the Cedar Foundation to raise awareness to the wider public of brain injury.

“Brain injuries may lead to a number of different problems such as personality changes, cognitive deficits such as memory loss, physical disabilities, speech and language difficulties and sensory changes. The Western Trust Community Brain Injury Service, alongside our colleagues in Spruce House, help people with brain injury to recover, rehabilitate and regain their independence.”

Shane continued: “I would encourage everyone to come along and join us on our walk during Brain Injury Awareness Week. By highlighting the effects of such potentially devastating injuries, we hope to give people pause to consider the implications of their behaviour and actions on their own and other people’s lives – through the use of alcohol and drugs, assaults and reckless driving in particular.”

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