As a personal injury solicitor with a special interest in brain and spinal cord injury, I recently attended the Headway and Spinal Injuries Association annual conference which was a very interesting day.
The day was filled with fascinating and informative talks from an array of speakers ranging from medical professionals to lawyers working in the field of serious injury claims. The most insightful and inspirational talks, however, came from the speakers who had sustained serious life changing injuries themselves.
One of the speakers was a gentleman who had been involved in a catastrophic road traffic accident and as a result suffered a severe brain and spinal cord injury. He gave a truly moving and inspiring talk on his personal experience as a brain and spinal cord injury survivor living with the effects of these lifelong injuries.
Polytrauma is a term used to describe the condition of a person who has suffered two or more traumatic injuries in at least two areas of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord, which can endanger the life of the injured person.
Polytrauma patients require emergency treatment to ascertain possible life threatening injuries. Intensive, coordinated care by teams of interdisciplinary medical professionals working together is vital. While some patients may be able to return to their daily routines with assistance and support, others will continue to require more intense supportive services and care. The fact that two serious injuries have been sustained, may affect where the person will be treated. Typically those who sustain a spinal cord injury may be able to access a specialist spinal injury unit. If someone has also sustained a brain injury, treatment for this injury may take priority and take place within a specialist neurological department. Wherever the treatment takes place, it is vital that both injuries are addressed together and not in isolation, to ensure the optimal outcome for the injured person. This can be very hard to achieve if someone has sustained a severe brain injury which may impact on their ability to engage with rehabilitation and understand how to manage their spinal cord injury.
Support and assistance for these individuals and their families is crucial when dealing with the overwhelming long term effects of two life changing injuries, such as brain and spinal cord injury.
Charities such as the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA), which is the leading national user-led charity for people who sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI), offer support and services required for those with a SCI to lead healthy, social and fulfilling lives. The charity works incredibly hard to raise awareness and campaign to provide invaluable services and create opportunities for people to make the most of their abilities and skills. The SIA offers support and advice by people who have suffered a SCI who can offer their own personal experiences of SCI to other survivors and their families so that those who are newly injured have the support and information to live full and independent lives. The effects of SCI are long term, and the fantastic services provided by the SIA are able to support individuals from the moment their life changing injury occurs, and for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully, polytraumas are relatively rare, but when they do occur it is important that specialist advice is sought from specialists who understand the complexities of each injury. As a Trustee for Headway East London, a charity providing support services to brain injury survivors, their families and carers, it is great to see two leading charities working together through a conference to better inform lawyers, other professionals and the public of the immediate and long terms effects of brain and spinal cord injury.
A polytrauma can impact on every aspect of day to day life, so compensation needs to reflect the amount of treatment, care, support, equipment and accommodation these individuals require.