Access To Support And Rehabilitation Crucial To Recovery, Says RAF Engineer Battling Brain Injury

Serious Injury Lawyers Support Headway’s Action For Brain Injury Week

14.05.2013

By Suzanne Rutter

An RAF engineer who suffered life-changing brain injuries in a head-on road traffic collision hopes his battle back to health will inspire others going through similar ordeals as the country marks Headway’s Action For Brain Injury Week.

Malcolm Stewart, of Elgin, suffered a fractured skull and facial injuries in a head-on collision on the A96 near Alves on 29 January 2010 when another driver crossed onto the wrong side of the road in icy weather conditions. He was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where surgeons battled to save his life in a 10-hour operation fitting 17 metal plates into his skull and face.

After the accident, the 48-year-old instructed expert serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who helped secure him a six-figure settlement to enable him to access the intensive rehabilitation and treatment he needed to get his life back on track.

Three years on, Malcolm is still coming to terms with his injuries but hopes to raise awareness about the struggles brain injury victims face during Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week, which takes place from 13 to 19 May 2013.

Malcolm, an aircraft technician for the RAF, spent six weeks in hospital after his operation, including 11 days in intensive care, followed by an eight-week stint at the RAF rehabilitation centre at Headley Court in Surrey, where he underwent intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.  Irwin Mitchell also helped with further support from a neuropsychologist to help repair his memory and cognitive functions.

Since the accident he has suffered from double vision, some speech difficulties and initially had trouble eating due to the injuries he sustained to his jaw.  He has also suffered from seizures and still has some memory problems, has completely lost his sense of smell and some sense of taste.  Despite the long term impact of the accident, Malcolm returned to his job in the RAF where he will stay until he retires at the end of this year.

David Bell, an expert serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Glasgow office who represented him, said he hopes Malcolm’s experience will help raise awareness about the difficulties people who have suffered brain injuries face when it comes to accessing rehabilitation, support and community services.

Last month Irwin Mitchell joined forces with the charity Momentum Skills in Grampian to compile a directory of services for parents, carers and people who have suffered acquired brain injuries called ‘Directory of Brain Injury Services – Grampian Area 2013.’ Irwin Mitchell also hope to compile similar directories for the Edinburgh and Lothian areas.

David said: “The past three years have been particularly challenging for Malcolm who had to come to terms with the terribly debilitating injuries he sustained in the crash.  But his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous and it’s a credit to his strength and determination that he has fought back from such a terrible brain injury to return to the job he loves.

“We know from working with clients like Malcolm and their families whose lives have been affected by brain injury how important it is to have access to the best possible advice, care, rehabilitation and specialist support to help them overcome their injuries.

“That’s why we have always been a champion of charities like Momentum Skills and Headway who help raise awareness about the dramatic and life-changing impact brain injuries can have on people’s lives.

“Malcolm’s experience shows that even after such horrific injuries, there is light at the end of the tunnel and support available to help you get your life back on track.”

Malcolm, who has been with his partner for 14 years, received a six-figure settlement in February from the insurance company of the driver which hit him. He is now back working for the RAF and is planning for his future after he retires. He had hoped to take up a job on an oil rig but his condition means the job would be too dangerous for him now.

He said: “The last three years have been the most harrowing and challenging of my life and at times I certainly didn’t think I’d get through it.  To think that I had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery and that my entire face and skull had to be reconstructed is frightening but I’m proud of the way I’ve battled back.

“The RAF have been great, offering me intensive rehabilitation at Headley Court combined with the specialist neuropsychologists Irwin Mitchell helped me get access to and without this I don’t think I’d be here today still doing the job I loved.

“After the accident my family did a lot of research about my condition, trying to figure out how it might affect me, what rehabilitation I’d need and how long it would take to get me on my feet again.

“But they often said it was a minefield and it seemed like a battle to just get access to what information and contacts we needed. That’s why I support events like Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week because the charity is one of the few treasure troves of information out there who also campaign tirelessly to improve access to services and treatment.”

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