Thursday 22 February 2018

Mum describes how life has changed after suffering devastating brain injury at work

Yvonne underwent brain surgery after an aneurysm in her brain ruptured.
Yvonne underwent brain surgery after an aneurysm in her brain ruptured.

Zainab Boladale

AN Irish woman who once had a "busy lifestyle" has described how her life has changed after a brain injury.

A normal day for Yvonne Kelly (50) four years ago involved juggling her career as part of Cadbury's logistics team, along with her role as mum to sons Niall, Aaron and Stephen.

Life changed drastically for the mum-of-three from Artane in Dublin in July 2013, when she fell ill at work after experiencing headache symptoms. When her condition worsened, she was rushed to Beaumont Hospital, where it was later determined she had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm.

An aneurysm is a weak area in the wall of an artery supplying blood to the brain, and if ruptured, blood begins to flow into the skull causing a stroke.

Niall Kelly, Aaron Kelly, Stephen Kelly with their mother Yvonne
Niall Kelly, Aaron Kelly, Stephen Kelly with their mother Yvonne

The mum underwent brain surgery to access the aneurysm, in order to stop the blood flow to it.

Yvonne was placed in an induced coma for more than a week as the medical team prepared her family for the worst. After nine days Yvonne woke up, but had lost her ability to speak and doctors discovered her memory had been affected. The mum was also unable to walk.

"I was in hospital for seven weeks with doctors expecting the worst. My sons were told that I would be in a wheelchair, unable to speak, have issues with memory, and be living in a home," Yvonne said.

"I was in a coma for nine days and after I woke up I couldn’t speak," she told Independent.ie.

Yvonne had very little memory of what had happened to her and where she was.

"When it came back, I thought I was in a bad dream," she said.

Yvonne was transferred from Beaumont Hospital to the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire in the weeks after her brain surgery, where she underwent six weeks of intense speech and occupational rehabilitation.

"When I was in rehabilitation, my brain felt like a sponge, as though it was full of water."

While recovering Yvonne said her speech reverted back to that of a five-year-old and talking to people gave her anxiety and panic attacks.

The brain injury left her with aphasia, a condition affecting the production and comprehension of speech.

If Yvonne meant to say one word, a different word that could be related to the topic would be said instead.

"If I wanted to say brother I'd say sister," Yvonne said.

Yvonne also has difficulties following conversations and understanding what people meant. She forced herself to participate in conversations to help build her confidence and improve her speech, but found it intimidating because she "didn’t want to look stupid."

Yvonne also said it was difficult to adjust to the idea that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the normalities of her previous life and that she would need to "scale down" everything.

She said that the incident was harder for her family because they had to imagine her life differently and they had to support her through learning to walk and talk again. She found it challenging having to depend on others.

Unable to work, Yvonne is now on a pension scheme and she said the only thing that she can really do is go for walks and engage in the community space Headway, an organisation that offers services and support for people with brain injury, provides.

"Despite these challenges, I feel that I actually have a better life now. I was always a positive person, and although many things have changed, that has not," said Yvonne.

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