Ben, aged 29, was an extremely fit Personal Trainer and accomplished athlete. He managed a thriving fitness business with both private and corporate PT clients. He travelled the world and, every summer, managed a children’s camp in Maine, USA. His physical strength and sense of humour were legendary and he loved his life.
On the evening of 5 November 2013, Ben was involved in a road traffic accident. He was driving a low-level, red kit car and turning into a small cul-de-sac when he was involved in a collision with another car. The other car (a much larger vehicle) mounted Ben’s car and hit him on the left side of his head. As a result of the collision, Ben suffered life-threatening injuries including massive head trauma and was taken to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.
Ben had sustained a ‘diffuse axonal injury’, sadly common among young males in particular and mostly due to traffic collisions. His prognosis was dire with little chance of regaining consciousness – 90% never do – and with predictions of severe disability and dependency for the rest of his life.
He was placed in an induced coma for two weeks and each day, for the next month, his family and close friends provided round the clock stimulation to literally ‘drag him back’ to consciousness. Apart from a few eye blinks and finger twitches, Ben was totally incapable of movement. He had no muscle control or communication and was tube fed.
Over the next five months, while in a neuro unit in Buckinghamshire, he learned to breathe unaided, began to eat normal food and started to communicate. Eventually, he took a few tentative steps unaided. Ben had marked left-sided weakness with significant motor losses and he was confirmed as having irreversibly lost the sight in his left eye. He was permanently disorientated, with obvious evidence of cognitive deficits and with no short-term memory.
One year after the accident, he still did not regularly recognise his mother. Two years after the accident he was unable to consistently tell you his age, where he lived or what year it was. Three years after his accident, In October 2016, Ben’s support worker introduced him to Damian at SportsAble…
At this time, Ben had considerable left-sided weakness and had coordination and balance issues. All of his movements were slow and measured. His confidence was at an all-time low and he was struggling to manage depression. His short-term memory was virtually non-existent and he had considerable word-finding difficulties. Although previously an extremely out-going and social individual, Ben found all conversations very difficult and frustrating.
Damian accompanied Ben to his first archery session at SportsAble and introduced him to the coach and other members. For the first time since his accident, Ben realised that, actually, he was still pretty good at some things! Ben spent the next year getting involved in lots of different sports.
He joined the Golf section – a sport he had never really tried before – and loved it. His fellow golfers welcomed him into their group and gave him incredible strength, confidence and support.
He joined the Air weapons section and gained a silver medal in the winter league competitions for both the 2017/2018 and the 2018/2019 seasons.
In 2017, through Chris Humphris at SportsAble, Ben discovered Kayaking and has wanted to be on the water ever since. After spending last summer on local rivers and lakes, Ben was invited to be assessed by Team GB Paracanoe as a potential team member. He didn’t make the team – but was thrilled to be asked!
At the SportsAble 2018 Awards Evening, Ben was the recipient of two awards – one of them for Golf. His motivation and courage were recognised by the BBC Blue Peter programme and he was given an ‘Inspirational Adult’ award.
Ben explains what SportsAble means to him, “I was in a pretty desperate place when I found SportsAble… lacking in confidence, unable to participate in any of the sports I was so good at before my injury… I needed inspiration and I found it in Damian from SportsAble. He and many of the other friendly staff and volunteers at the club helped me begin a number of different sports – and I never looked back. I consider myself so lucky to have had the opportunity to become a SportsAble member. It’s not just about playing sport. It’s about being part of a big family that understands me.’
Broken bones mend fairly fast but the brain takes a long, long time to heal. In the last five years, Ben has had to relearn everything. With perseverance and support, he has regained some lost skills …and his independence. He has discovered new friends and new sports through SportsAble and now helps out as a volunteer at the club.
There are still many things Ben is unable to do but he continues to persevere. He has learned that, given the opportunity to try, he can often achieve. SportsAble entered his life at a very unhappy and frustrating time and has clearly made an enormous difference as to how he now sees himself and his future.
More about at SportsAble
SportsAble has been working with Disability Bowls England to introduce Short Mat Bowls to our weekly sports schedule. Short Mat Bowls is suitable for people […]