Parents and Carers

Over the last week, we have been celebrating the Unsung Heroes that make a difference in the lives of children with acquired brain injuries (ABI), and their families. When a child’s brain is injured, it can be a traumatic time for everyone involved. When an injured child returns home, it may seem as though the worst is over. Sadly, we at the Child Brain Injury Trust know that this is often just the start of a family’s journey.

There will be a variety of challenges ahead as they come to understand the long term consequences of their child’s brain injury. Unsung Heroes are the people who go above and beyond to support a child and their family as they face these challenges. We opened up nominations to the general public and were pleased to see so many Heroes get the recognition they deserve.

The Heroes we’ve seen this week include a professional who tasked herself with learning more about the complex nature of childhood ABI in order to help secure the right support for a child at school. We’ve also seen the huge difference a loyal friend can make to a teenager struggling to maintain social ties. And, of course, we’ve heard about wonderful siblings who help out in many different ways with the new regimes and limitations their family has had to adapt to.

However, we recognise that parents and carers themselves are often the true Unsung Heroes of childhood ABI. On Tuesday, Cheryl Abrahams, who works for solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, sponsors of our campaign, wrote about “Kate”, a parent of a teenage son with challenging behaviour she had worked with. Cheryl said, “There is no doubt in my mind that Kate is an Unsung Hero. No matter what Bradley does, she continues to love and support him, even though at times she has been pushed to breaking point due to his behaviour.” A tale familiar to many of the families we work with.

When nominating “Fiona” and “Derek”, parents to 21 year old “Helen” (not their real names), Megan Paul at Irwin Mitchel Solicitors told us, “Not only do they assist Helen with everything from morning to night but they ensure she maintains/increases her independence and confidence wherever possible. Although Helen needs a lot of support they constantly encourage her to do as much as possible for herself.”

Megan, in West Yorkshire, is supported admirably by her single mum Linda. Martha Sweet, of Irwin Mitchell, nominated Linda saying that 23 year old Megan, “is vulnerable and has often pushed boundaries with Linda (even more so that a child of her age would be expected to do) which Linda has dealt with admirably. Without Linda, Megan would have struggled on a day to day basis with even the smallest practical tasks, such as domestic chores of cooking, cleaning and washing, but also in ensuring her safety. Linda has been absolutely dedicated and committed to caring for Megan following her injury. She is Megan’s “rock”. Linda is the one person in Megan’s life that she knows will always be there for her. It is extremely likely that Linda will help Megan with all aspects of her life in the longer-term until she is no longer in a position to do so.”

David King, from Irwin Mitchell, nominated “Kevin”, step-dad to “Rowan”(now 17) and dad to “Mel” (6) (not their real names). Rowan sustained a traumatic brain injury as a toddler after being hit by a vehicle that mounted the pavement while she was in her pushchair.

As David said, “Since the accident Rowan has displayed outbursts of verbal and physical aggression on a frequent basis and regularly caused considerable damage to the family home. At the time that Kevin came into Rowan’s life, when he was still in his mid-twenties, Rowan had extremely severe behavioural problems.”

“Despite what must have been an extremely challenging and, at times, overwhelming situation, Kevin raised Rowan as his own daughter, and has provided not only love and affection, but also a great deal of emotional support to both Rowan and her mum, throughout his time in their lives.”

He concluded by saying, “It makes an incalculable difference to Rowan to have a caring, reliable father figure, who has stood by the family through thick and thin.”

No matter how it was sustained, parents and carers are expected to quickly become ‘experts’ on childhood brain injury, a complex condition that leads to different challenges in each case. From sorting out practical considerations such as accessible bathrooms in the family home, to the often difficult task of securing the right support for their child at school to making sure a child is able to grow and become as independent as possible – it can be an exhausting process. It is not often families are recognised for the skills, determination and resilience it takes to cope.

These are just a few examples of families who are coping with situations most people could never imagine. We hope the Child Brain Injury Trust makes life easier for these families and we salute the Unsung Heroes out there who do so too.

Lisa Turan,
Chief Executive
Child Brain Injury Trust

For more information and support for siblings, check out our Factsheets. You can also listen to our webinar on this topic, which was recorded during Action for Brain Injury Week 2015. In order to listen, you will need to register for our online Learning Catalogue which you can do here.

Please share this blog post and help us raise awareness of the challenges families face when a child’s brain is suddenly injured. You can do this via the buttons below. If you’d like to support the Child Brain Injury Trust and help us continue offering support to families across the UK, you can do so by donating online here.

To read our other Action for Brain Injury Week blogs, click here.