Today I met with some wonderful people at Redford Court, Michael Boardman Service user and Family Liaison officer, Lisa Jones Service manager, Dr Ivan Pitman clinical Neuro-Psychologist and Sally Rowlands Link worker
Sometimes the position of being an LGA spokesperson on Health & Social Care can be pretty wearing. I have to go to London a lot (6 times this month) listen to a lot of speeches (often my own!) and deal with £billions of pounds and the needs of millions of people.
Sometimes, however, I get the chance to do what I really enjoy doing. I can actually go out and meet some of the people behind those £s and those statistics. I can meet the people who deliver services and talk to the people that they help.
Today has been a wonderful example of that when I spent a couple of hours at Redford Country which is the Liverpool base for the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust. I learnt a lot about what they do and what causes brain injuries and I saw, at first hand, a great set of people doing great things. I also learnt about new positions. I didn’t know that such people as consultant neuro-psychologists existed!
So, what is a brain injury? Well it is not necessarily what I thought it was. I had made the assumption that most of the people would be suffering from injuries caused by some sort of traumatic incident such as a traffic collision or industrial problem and that the rest would be facing up to the aftermath of severe strokes or similar. Well those only account for some 30% of the people that Redford Court Deal with. The rest are down to the two most common causes of unnecessary problems of a traumatic nature – drugs and booze. As Hercule Poirot would put it too much of either or both of these are not good for, “ze little grey cells!”
Today I met with a man who had indeed had a serious accident and who is halfway through a rehab process which will lead to him going back into something like his normal life in about 6 weeks. Others might have no hope of this. Andrew who is an avid ‘Thunderbirds’ collector and unofficial archivist for St Helen’s Rugby League team is largely self-sufficient living in a lovely little apartment, provided by Riverside Housing, but will never be able to be entirely on his own in society.
I suspect that Andrew’s knowledge of Thunderbirds and St Helen’s Rugby League Club is second to none!!
I was delighted to hear how much families want to be involved in the rehab work. In some cases, families have been brought back together by the brain injury. Men and women who have had serious drink or drug problems which have often separated them from their families. Now that they are in a place where care can be given it gives the family space in which they can reconnect and find the ‘soul and spirit’ of their loved one somewhere within the problem.
The staff are marvellous and committed. There is a huge range of skills involved in supporting people with Brain Injuries from Occupational Therapists though Speech Therapists to consultant psychologists. With, of course a large number of caring, cleaning and cooking staff. All of them seemed relaxed and comfortable and the patients were clearly relaxed and comfortable with them. The place clearly functioned as a big family where everyone seemed to get on well. Of course, one of the problems with brain injuries is that someone can be placid and contained one minute and really nasty the next.
So, I have offered to help them with what they think is currently their most desperate need – to make people in a range of places understand what brain injury is and how to deal with it. The Police, for example, can think that that someone is just being stubborn or anti-social because that is how the person might present BUT that person cannot help doing what he (and it is mostly men for a variety of reasons) does. People who work in homeless centres or other places where the lonely and destitute end up can similarly be faced with what they perceive to be one problem but which is really another one.
To help with this problem another national charity called ‘Headway’ are producing photo identity cards which reveal the problem and give details of a help line where people on the ground can seek expert help.
I am sure that if you would like to visit Redford Court so that you understand this problem better you would be very welcome. I went, I saw, I learned and now want to help. I am sure that will happen to you if you go and have a look for yourself.