Throughout the BBC Louis Theroux documentary 'A Different Brain' many people were involved both in front of the camera and behind the scenes at various services operated by the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT).

You can find out more information about some of those you have seen in the documentary below; both the men and women we support and some of the staff featured.

Brain Injury is often referred to as a 'hidden disability’ because those affected can show few physical signs of change, people with acquired brain injury face enormous cognitive, behavioural and personality challenges. Rehabilitation helps them to reconstruct who they are - from relearning the basics of walking, talking and eating, to adapting to changes in personality and behaviour, often under the shadow of who they once were.

Alice graduated from the University of Birmingham with a first class honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She has previously worked in various settings including Mental Health Services and within Talking Therapies. She joined BIRT in September 2015 as an Assistant Psychologist and is currently applying for one of the highly competitive Doctoral Clinical Psychology training places. Working at Redford Court has given Alice the opportunity to gain valuable experience in neurorehabilitation working as part of a clinical team and creating clinical review reports for families and commissioners.

I was very nervous and excited about being filmed, but Louis and the film crew put me at ease and I soon forgot about the camera!

She has particularly enjoyed working on a one-to-one basis with the people BIRT supports. Alice, along with Jade; another Assistant Psychologist at Redford Court, recently presented to 70 delegates at the Annual Networking Conference held by Redford Court in Liverpool. The theme of this year’s conference was identifying the needs of individuals and their family with Acquired Brain Injury.

Talking about filming for 'A Different Brain', Alice was thrilled at the opportunity to be involved in a documentary that will help increase awareness and understanding of the very real impact of brain injury. Alice hopes to further her career by obtaining a place on the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Course; and she is sure she will always have fond memories of the staff, and men and women supported during her time at Redford Court.

One very moving story shown in 'A Different Brain' is about Amanda and her family in Cornwall. Amanda was admitted to our BIRT centre, The Woodmill in Cullompton, Devon in 2014. She sustained a severe brain injury after falling from a galloping horse and landing on her head earlier that year. She was placed in an induced coma in an intensive care unit in hospital and needed surgical removal of part of the bone from her skull that was exposed to her brain. She was in a coma for around three weeks.

Amanda was discharged home from the hospital. However she had not received the full level of support required to maintain success, to build relationships or to manage risks in her home. The situation at home became increasingly difficult and it was clear that Amanda was unable to engage in family life. She often became short-tempered and intolerant of her husband and children, with apparent loss of emotional connection and empathy. Her mood was also cause for concern and she started drinking and smoking much more than she had ever done so before.

During this time Amanda also developed some concerning neurological signs, for example blurred vision, headaches and swelling of her head. She was re-admitted to hospital with worsening double vision and headaches. She had also fallen at home on at least two occasions. Amanda then had further surgery. Subsequently there had been some excess fluid build-up and swelling in her brain. She was then assessed for suitability for further rehabilitation BIRT's centre The Woodmill and soon after was admitted to the service. Amanda's abilities have improved, but there is still a long path ahead for Amanda and her family.

The person he married died the day I fell off that horse, I am what's left

Her husband, Rob, has dealt amazingly well with the challenges that have been involved, as well as raising two young children mainly on his own. In the documentary Amanda spoke about herself and Rob.

After much intensive rehabilitation including occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and a full clinical support package at The Woodmill and resulting improvements, Amanda was able to move back home with her husband and two children in March 2016. 'A Different Brain' shows the process of Amanda moving back home and how this has brought about changes to family life with adaptations needing to be made by all the family and the journey that Rob has been through with supporting and caring for her.

One of the main people featured in the BBC documentary is Dan who underwent rehabilitation at BIRT’s centre in Liverpool, Redford Court. He had been involved in a serious road traffic accident in 2006 where he was hit by a moving vehicle which caused many serious physical injuries and a significant brain injury. Dan said:

I was in hospital for a couple of years where I had a lot of operations and spent a lot of time in a coma. When I woke up, I had to walk, talk, read and write and do everything for myself again. They told me that I would never walk again, but look at me now!”

I've really enjoyed being filmed by the BBC, having all the aspects of my life filmed; it shows what life has been like since I received an ABI.

Dan came to Redford Court in 2014 and has made really positive physical improvements but has also learnt to better manage his emotions and behaviour though his intensive rehabilitation programme. He also interacts really well with the staff there.

Earl sustained a severe brain injury following a car crash. He was admitted to hospital with fractures to his pelvis, right arm and spine, as well as a severe brain injury, deep inside the brain. His post traumatic amnesia (memory loss) lasted four weeks, which is consistent with a severe brain injury. A community recovery team tried to support him but, due to behavioural difficulties, he was admitted to a neurorehabilitation unit. Although some improvement was noted in the more stable boundaries environment, he was discharged back to the community. Again due to his behavioural issues at home, such as aggression, he was then admitted to BIRT’s centre in Leeds - Daniel Yorath House (DYH) in March 2015.

Louis is a legend and I’d watch one of his documentaries even if it was about grass!

Since coming to DYH, Earl has made huge improvements through the continued rehabilitation and support he has received, which can be seen in the documentary. Ever since then Earl has continued to make significant and encouraging progress. Earl’s mum, Patricia, has noticed these improvements including learning to control his emotions.

Earl spoke about being involved in 'A Different Brain': “I enjoyed the filming as I found it eye-opening the way things are filmed to make a programme. The BBC care about people and didn’t make any judgements about us – they just wanted to get to know us and our stories. They were very professional. They had respect for us, yet asked the questions they needed to, however we could always say if we didn’t want to answer them without them making us feel guilty. They made me feel comfortable.”

Dr Ivan Pitman
Dr Ivan Pitman is the Clinical Lead and Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist at Redford Court in Liverpool. He joined the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust in April 2009 and has over 15 years of working in neurorehabilitation. He has a passion for working with some of the most complex, challenging and disenfranchised individuals in society, having worked within highly secure hospitals as well as within medium and low secure units before working in more community based residential rehabilitation units.

...his true skill was to see the heart of the struggle that each person had..

Ivan has presented at numerous conferences, both nationally and internationally and has published on subjects as diverse as the impact of concussive injuries in sport to the treatment of sex offenders with brain injuries. He has recently published the outcome of his research into the prevalence of acquired brain injury amongst UK prisoners in the journal of Neuropsychology Rehabilitation.

Having been involved with the Louis Theroux documentary Ivan said: “It was a real privilege to show Louis and his team the real struggle in everyday life that those we support have. Brain injury remains such an unknown and hidden disability and yet it’s impact on the individual and their families is lifelong.”

Natalie was born and raised in Wales and very proud of her Welsh heritage. She had a good education and went on to achieve a degree in fine arts before working both in the UK and abroad as a teacher and au pair. Natalie was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease (an overactive thyroid gland)
in 1998 and has not been able to work since then. Following the diagnosis of her illness she had severe psychiatric problems.

I made lots of improvements whilst at Redford Court, I was less aggressive and made close therapeutic relationships with staff.

She was an insulin dependent diabetic and she attempted suicide through an insulin overdose in 2000, resulted in an anoxic brain injury (the brain being starved of oxygen), secondary to a hypoglycaemic coma (dangerously low blood sugar leading to a diabetic coma). As a result of the brain injury she had problems with her aggression, memory and social interactions.

As a result of her improvements she moved to a community house close to her family in Wales, but after six months it was clear that this wasn’t working so she returned to Redford Court where she continues to make progress. She goes home to visit her mum in Wales regularly and the documentary shows her going home for her birthday. Natalie was delighted to be involved in the documentary.

Dr Yasmine Precious
Dr Precious is a clinical psychologist and clinical lead at Daniel Yorath House (DYH) in Leeds. Her specialist interest in neuropsychological rehabilitation can be seen in her commitment and dedication to helping improve the lives of the people she supports at DYH. She has worked extensively within Child and Mental Health Services, adult, older adult and forensic impatient services and after being instrumental in designing and developing a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Service from scratch for use with particular patients with a combination of brain injury and mental health difficulties. Regarding her involvement with the Louis Theroux 'A Different Brain' documentary Yasmine said:

This [documentary] was hugely validating for the people we support and enabled them to feel a sense of pride.

I was struck by how the process of making the BBC documentary helped my clients become more self-aware and reflective, during the course of filming. The whole process not only helped them develop insight into their difficulties, post brain injury, but highlighted their progress since engaging in rehabilitation, along with their personal strengths and abilities. "

Perhaps more importantly, this process helped to shape a more positive personal identity, which the people we support often struggle to construct, post brain injury. The BBC documentary provided some of the people BIRT supports with space to make sense of their difficult experiences, as well as a platform to share them with the public helping others understand what it feels like to live with a brain injury. Moreover, their stories emphasise how a brain injury is not only life changing for the individual, but also their family and friends.

"The whole process was hugely validating for the people we support and enabled them to feel a sense of pride from being given the responsibility to educate the public on such a moving subject, which also helped bolster their self-esteem in the process. Just as it is always a privilege to be invited into the lives of our clients to help them reach their full potential, it was a privilege to support them through such a life changing experience as being involved in the BBC documentary. This has been a hugely rewarding experience for the people we support and staff, all round."

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