Two years ato the Louis Theroux documentary ‘A Different Brain’ was featured on BBC Two. The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) was delighted to have been at the heart of the BBC Two documentary, which was about brain injury and the rehabilitation journey, showing how people and their families come to terms with this life-changing condition. The documentary is now available on Netflix.
We wanted to catch up with some of the people who featured in the documentary, to see how their lives had changed since the programme aired. We also wanted to see, given their retrospective knowledge, whether they would have gone through the filming process again, having been so open to the public about their personal stories. You can read the background story about those involved here.
The documentary was very well received nationally, with over three million views. Many positive comments were received from viewers, such as those shown in the following tweets:
“Thank you @louistheroux @theDTgroup staff, clients & families for sharing such honest accounts of #braininjury”
“Superb, deeply affecting film by @louistheroux on #braininjury featuring the amazing rehab support of @theDTgroup”
“Work of the @theDTgroup and other professionals in field of ABI rehab is inspiring - #ADifferentBrain – quality rehab makes such a difference”
Natalie featured in ‘A Different Brain’ at the BIRT centre, Redford Court in Liverpool. She spent a good amount of time with Louis, including going back to her mother’s home in Wales for her birthday. Natalie spoke of her experience:
"I felt as though I was a good part of the documentary. I think that (my family and friends) were ok with the documentary and they could understand me more.
I found it nice to be involved; I find it better to know what really happened to me.
"The documentary made me feel stronger in my own mind, I can think of things that happened to me.”
We asked Natalie how she found being at Redford Court and if it had been helpful with her rehabilitation:
“Yes it has been, it has made me feel stronger in my own mind and the friends I’ve got like Sue. I can go out to the pictures and other places.”
When asked if she would go through the process of filming again, Natalie said: “Yes, because I think it’s good to show about rehabilitation.”
Dan is a popular service user at BIRT’s Redford Court in Liverpool. He has mixed feelings about the filming and still hopes to move on from Redford Court when he is ready to. Dan reflected back on his involvement with the filming and airing of A Different Brain…
When asked about his involvement in the documentary Dan said:
Family and friends said that they liked it and that after watching it they said that they can now see what I want out of life and found things out that I had never told anyone.
“Being involved in the documentary was a bit of an eye opener because of some of the questions that were asked of me I had never been asked before. I did try to put my best foot forward, first by being as honest as possible, even knowing there were times when I had to really think about all the answers that I gave to try to stay calm. I think the film crew and staff at Redford court were really supportive and that helped me.”
We asked Dan how he felt about seeing the documentary on television:
“When watching the documentary when broadcast it made me sad, but at the same time, when at my work placement, I was surprised that I stayed as calm there, and the staff there were really nice and calm about having me there and a few of them being in the programme.”
Asked if he would go though the filming process again Dan said: “Now that I know what its like to be filmed, yes I would do it again.”
Earl was based at the BIRT centre, Daniel Yorath House in Leeds. Earl and his mum, Patricia, were an integral part of A Different Brain. Louis visited Earl at the centre and when he went home at the weekend to see his family.
Earl found the behind the scenes work with the documentary and support team very interesting, and appreciated how comfortable the team made him feel.
I definitely feel happier now, although I miss Daniel Yorath House! It was a stepping stone that put me on the right road for the rest of my life.
Earl is now back home and enjoys a very active life. He has a keyworker to support him and does voluntary work for Sheffield United; working with a professional coach to help train children in football skills.
He also does voluntary work at a youth club during the week, which he really enjoys.
In addition Earl sees his Linkworker regularly, as well as a clinical support team to guide him with various therapy sessions each week.
His main goal for the year ahead is to improve his relationships at home with his family and to continue to build solid foundations.
Since being at Daniel Yorath House, things have improved greatly and enabled us to get back to a ‘new’ normal. Earl has made huge progress and home life is so much easier nowPatricia (Earl's Mum)
One other exciting event over the past couple of years for Earl was that he became an uncle in November 2016 and then became Godfather to his niece in March 2017. Asked if he would go though the filming process again Earl said:
“Yes - definitely, it gave people a greater insight into brain injury and made me feel more accepted by people I knew as they understood more about it."
Amanda had been a veterinary nurse but after a serious horse riding accident she spent several months at the BIRT Centre, The Woodmill, in Collumpton.
In the documentary Amanda’s husband Rob gave the moving story of how life had changed and the impact it had on the family. Speaking to Rob about being featured in the documentary he said:
“We very much enjoyed being involved with the documentary. For us as a family it gave the ability to show just a very small amount of how our lives have changed since Amanda’s accident. It is such a complicated injury and almost impossible for anyone to comprehend without seeing it and living with it. You can’t explain it to people, so it was my way to show awareness into the injury and awareness into what BIRT does. It was like telling our story and yes, I would definitely do it again!”
Rob found viewing the documentary quite hard, especially seeing their children and their reactions to the difficulties they faced at home. He felt as though it was like taking a step back and seeing it from a different point of view. He also thought it was interesting to see how other families were learning to cope with a traumatic brain injury. Rob found it quite emotional to see other people and their families in the film, with the journeys they were undertaking.
When asked how their family and friends found the documentary, Rob said: “Most people said it was very hard to watch, even some of my friends still have not managed to watch it! We had a lot of good reactions, but lots of people who have not seen Amanda since the accident were very shocked and saddened by it. But, it was worth every minute of filming again for me to show people what life has become.”
Rob updated us on how life is for the family now, a year after the filming …
…[the documentary] was our chance to show our story and show awareness of brain injuries and the work that BIRT does.
“When Amanda went into the Woodmill she couldn't get out of bed or walk unaided. When she left The Woodmill she was at the point of being almost independent and just needing support at home rather than having to leave the Woodmill to live in residential care. Her rehabilitation gave her the opportunity to live in her own house, and to live her own life, albeit with support.
"This would not have been possible without the rehabilitation received from the team at the Woodmill.Upon returning home, sadly things didn't work out so well at home. Ever since the accident Amanda talked about wanting her own house. Eventually I helped her to get her own place in St. Cleer (which is where we lived before the accident). It was a really difficult decision, but sadly things at home hadn't improved. Amanda's relationship with the children also didn't get any better, if anything they got slowly worse with her becoming even more and more distant.
"Amanda gave many reasons as to why she wanted to go her own way, but the latest reason was that I kept her locked up in the annexe – which was clearly not the case!
"Anyway, I would for certain say she has improved in many ways in her new home with the great help of a support team, she is now doing much more than she was. Also, since moving out, her relationship has improved with the children. I still have to do many things for her in the background, such as looking after money and managing her care package etc. but maybe one day she will be able to manage more on her own. She continues to get 24/7 care, but it looking likely the overnight care will be removed soon.”
When asked if they would go through with the filming again when looking back a year, Rob said:
“For sure, anytime! Like I mentioned, it was our chance to show our story and help with awareness of brain injury and the work that BIRT does. I felt it also showed how important it is for charities like BIRT to support people with their brain injuries, and how difficult it often is to get the help and care needed.”