Life ‘in tatters’ after devastating brain injury

Kay Delaney who lost the last 20 years of her life following an accident. She's now getting help from Headway.
Kay Delaney who lost the last 20 years of her life following an accident. She's now getting help from Headway.
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NEWTON woman Kay Delaney has courageously spoken out about the effects a brain injury has had on her life.

Last July, Kay slipped on a wet floor at work and banged her head. She has been left with debilitating problems that stop her from leading a normal life and the knowledge that 20 years of her life are a complete blank.

Kay (55) does not remember her children Sandy (23) and Kenny (27) growing up and has no memory of her youngest son, James (20). James has needed additional support following the accident as he has ADHD and Asperger’s.

Kay said: “I remember tucking the children into bed when they were about six and two. Then I woke up and it was 20 years later.”

Her injury, classed as a ‘minor traumatic brain injury’, has also left her with short-term memory problems and concentration issues. The house she shares with partner Robert Illingworth (60) is filled with Post-It notes that serve as memory aids.

Everyday tasks such as cooking or cleaning are complicated because Kay forgets what she has been doing. She also has weakness on her left side that causes her to drop things and stumble.

Kay used to think nothing of using a computer to produce complex reports, but now struggles to send an email, a difficult blow for the woman who was set to become a regional director.

“The results of the accident have left my life in complete tatters and has become a heavy burden for my partner and children. None of our lives will ever be the same again.

“I was a fiercely independent woman with an excellent business reputation, but now I am just a shell with none of my former attributes left. I struggle to understand what role and purpose I now have in life.”

Kay is starting to work out ways of remembering, such as making step-by-step lists of routine tasks so she can carry them out properly

Another major problem is the financial burden. Kay was previously earning around £48,000 a year but now they have to survive on benefits. Robert can’t work as he is Kay’s full-time carer. Even trips to the hairdressers have had to stop, a blow to Kay’s already fragile self-esteem. She is only just coming to accept the face in the mirror, as in her head she is still in her 30s.

Jo Bohler is a Community Brain Injury Advisor for Headway Cambridgeshire. She has been able to explain some of the effects of brain injury that Kay is dealing with and has supported Robert, as well as filling in forms and signposting to other support services.

In the last couple of weeks, Kay attended the launch of the Headway Cambs Wisbech social group, the first time she had ventured anywhere by herself since the accident.

The couple are also very grateful to Dr Wordsworth at Trinity Surgery and said he had been “absolutely wonderful”, fighting for them when consultants diagnosed her condition as depression.

However, Kay said doctors and consultants need to be more aware of brain injuries and the effects they can have, and not just be content with directing people to the charity. Headway Cambs offers training and is trying to increase awareness of brain injuries.

Kay is determined not to let her accident define her.

She said: “I have always wanted to make a difference. From what I understand, I was beginning to make a difference with my work, bringing a better quality of life caring for the residents of care homes and dementia sufferers in particular, but now I can’t. That really hurts.

“But maybe there’s another way I can do it.”

For more information visit www.headway-cambs.org.uk