Sam Tattersfield: Recovering from the invisible injury, and writing about it – he #ConquerABI and #NeverStop

They call it the invisible injury – but while a brain trauma may not be as evident as a broken arm or a bad illness, it can be far more debilitating.

In mid-2017 I had a serious skiing accident, smashing my unhelmeted head onto a rock at The Remarkables ski field. I came scarily close to dying, spending two weeks in a coma, followed by long periods in hospital and in residential rehabilitation, relearning basic skills like walking, talking, and eating independently. All going well I will resume my postgraduate journalism diploma course this year. I am now healthy enough to write this, although I still have many months of recovery ahead of me.

I credit much of my recovery so far to the staff at ABI Porirua, one of four privately owned residential rehabilitation centres in New Zealand that specialise in my kind of injury (ABI also has a site in Auckland, and there are two other privately owned services in Christchurch and Dunedin). Their dedication and expertise was exemplary. My therapy team have been particularly outstanding.

When ABI Auckland was launched in 1996 it was the only specialist residential brain injury rehabilitation centre in New Zealand. Before this, even teenagers with brain injuries were put in rest homes or private hospitals, and often didn’t receive any specialist therapy. As a result, ABI was initially inundated with clients who could not be treated properly anywhere else. As Max Cavit, the founder and managing director of ABI puts it: “At that stage we were the dumping ground … for people with brain injury that nobody else wanted, because they were too difficult because of their high medical or high behavioural needs.”

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