The powerful stories of three young people, whose lives were shattered by car crashes, have been captured by college media experts in a video aimed at promoting head injury awareness.

Darlington College media staff were approached by Speech Therapy North East about a project to highlight the aftermath of acquired brain injuries, which in the UK affects someone every 90 seconds, whether that is the result of accidents, stroke or a tumour.

The move followed a previous project Darlington College staff had worked on to provide a video for Ward 26, the neuro-rehabilitation unit at James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough.

Filmed and edited by Darlington College media tutors Stephen Wade and Karl Oldridge, the 15 minute film features the harrowing tales of North East car crash victims Paddy Wilkinson, Tilly Raper and Jack Rutherford.

They agreed to talk about their experiences and develop a video as part of their involvement in an online social communication group which has formed part of their speech and language therapy input.

Paddy, 21, recalled his life since his crash three years ago which resulted in a bleed on the brain, broken neck and damaged ligaments, fractured ribs, pelvis and collar bone, punctured lung and torn spleen.

“I felt sad and confused,” he said. “I was trying to find potential meaning in things when in reality there was none; it had been just a freak accident. The group sessions helped me realise I was not alone and there were other young people going through the same thing, which was comforting.”

Tilly, 20, was a back seat passenger in a car crash when she was 19, sustaining a brain injury that left her in a coma, as well as a broken pelvis, lacerated spleen and contusions on the lungs.

“It completely changed my life,” she said. “I was in hospital for three months, including intensive care, but it felt like a year. I’m now trying to regain some sort of normality in my life. I am hoping to live independently, start to drive and take a course to be a teaching assistant.”

Jack, 22, was also a car passenger and doesn’t recall anything about the crash which left him with a brain injury and muscle issues.

“I had to learn to walk and talk again,” he recalled. “Relationships became much harder and I felt isolated and abandoned. My memory is a huge issue; I forget everything. I see myself before the injury as a different person. But it is in the past and I am trying to move on.”

Speech Therapy North East therapist Matthew Nakonesky said: “We run our social communication group to provide intervention to people who are experiencing cognitive communication difficulties. The aim is for the group to work towards a project that they choose themselves. Tilly, Paddy and Jack decided that they wanted to develop a documentary-style video on what it is like to live with a brain injury to help with their communication skills. We approached Darlington College and they have done an amazing job.

“The group were absolutely brilliant talking about adjusting to a new sense of self, as they move on with their lives. The hope is it will make more people aware of brain injury and help people realise there are others out there going through similar things to them.”

Stephen said: “It was so sad to hear the young people’s stories. They have had terrible experiences but are now managing to make the most of their lives.

“We were very keen to help on a project that will highlight that there are places you can go to get help to rebuild your lives. It was very emotional but very rewarding to do. For us it was also an valuable opportunity to develop our industrial skills which we can pass on to the media students.”

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