From hospital to motivational speaking: How Stephen’s life is changing with support from Healthscope Independence Services

After being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in 2018, Stephen’s future looked uncertain. He suffered significant injuries which left him unable to walk, talk, or care for himself. While his life is still different today to what it was before the accident, Stephen has made great progress. With support from the team at Healthscope Independence Services, Stephen has regained his ability to talk and feed himself. Now, at 23, he’s relearning how to walk and has plans to become a motivational speaker.

Stephen’s difficulties were largely the result of an acquired brain injury (ABI). An ABI is any injury to the brain that occurs after birth and causes include stroke, diseases affecting the brain, lack of oxygen, alcohol or drug use, or – as in Stephen’s case – a physical injury1. A 2021 Department of Health media release notes that more than 700,000 Australians are living with a brain injury, two out of every three of whom acquire it before the age of 25, and three-quarters of people with a brain injury are men.The impact of an ABI varies and can range from mild to profound, with common effects including fatigue, slowed mental processes, personality and behavioural changes, and difficulties with physical function1.

From hospital to home after more than a year

Stephen was a passenger in his friend’s car when it was involved in a high-speed collision, leaving him with a broken arm, leg, and ribs as well as the brain injury. ‘I spent three months in hospital and ten months in rehab, so 13 months in all,’ he explains. Since coming home to live with his family, Stephen has needed 24-hour care.

‘My life is very different now because I’m in a wheelchair,’ he adds. ‘I need help with everything – with getting dressed and showering. I was an apprentice electrician, but I haven’t been able to work since the accident.’

Gaining independence with support from the team

Nonetheless, Stephen has made significant progress towards his goals since returning home. Speech therapy has helped him to communicate more clearly. ‘I can talk a lot better even though it's not 100 per cent. People used to say, “I can’t understand you; can you please repeat yourself?” over and over again. But that's getting a lot better.’

He has also gained a lot more body movement, explains Healthscope Independence Services support worker Robert, who has worked with Stephen since he came home. ‘When I met Stephen, he could only move his head,’ Robert explains. ‘Now he can move at least 40 to 50 per cent of his body. We’re aiming to get him to a position where he can dress himself independently, but he hasn't quite got there yet.’

Holistic approach to recovery

In addition to assistance with self-care tasks, the team support Stephen with his mental and spiritual wellbeing. Stephen says his personality has changed a lot since the accident: ‘I used to be a bit of a rude person, but now I'm more loving and caring.’ He attributes this to a deepening of his faith. ‘I've always been a Christian, but I've gotten closer to God since the accident.’ One of his support workers shares his faith and encourages him with his spiritual growth. He was being supported to attend church prior to the pandemic and hopes to resume this when possible.

The team also motivate Stephen to stay on track with achieving his goals. ‘We give him encouragement to see life differently to what it is now,’ Robert says.

Making strides into the future

One of Stephen’s current goals is to regain his ability to walk. His support workers take him to physiotherapy twice per week, where he is practicing walking with the aid of specialised rehabilitation equipment. He also attends exercise physiology weekly and completes an exercise program most days with help from his support workers. When he’s not attending therapies, Stephen says he enjoys chilling at home and playing on his Xbox.

Robert says watching clients like Stephen achieve their goals is one of the most rewarding parts of his work. ‘Seeing him progressing from one level to another is a great encouragement for me as a carer,’ he says. ‘Another thing I love is the positive attitude and energy Stephen brings.’

Speaking into young lives

Stephen’s other goal is to improve his speech further so he can do motivational speaking. ‘I believe I have a very powerful testimony that can help a lot of people, especially youths at risk,’ he explains.

And he has definite things to say about his support team. ‘I was surprised by how lovely they are. I wasn't expecting to have such nice carers. I thought they would just come, do their job and go home. But I have a good relationship with them, which is awesome.’






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