ON November 7, 1994. sadly witnessed by my 19-year-old son, I fell 20 feet from my ladder to land headfirst on a concrete patio.

Airlifted to Derriford hospital in Plymouth, resuscitated twice on the way, the surgical team worked on me, removing half my skull to relieve the pressure on my brain, before placing me in an induced coma. Supported by the local Hospital Liaison Committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses with whom we are associated, my wife was told I would need to breathe unaided within the next 24 hours before they could decide whether to turn off the life support.

It was two-and-a-half weeks before I regained consciousness.

When I was considered fit to take it in, Paul Francel, the neurosurgeon responsible for my recovery, told my wife and I that, besides being paralysed down one side, having epilepsy, hearing loss in one ear and partial vision in one eye and being incontinent, I may also have brain damage but it might be two years before we knew for definite, and the severity.

This then was my introduction to a new life, for me and my wife and three children.

I was transferred to Torbay hospital in Torquay, being closer to home for the family and much needed physiotherapy. When they’d taken me as far as they could, I was moved to the care of Rosehill, a specialist rehab home in Torquay, There, for 18 months, both as a day client then resident, I was taught to walk again, tell the time, relearn social skills and become independent, better able to add something to my family instead of being a drain on their resources, physical, mental and emotional.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Philip pictured in 1993 - the year before his life-changing accidentPhilip pictured in 1993 - the year before his life-changing accident (Image: Philip Fairclough)

I was also desperate to return to work and contribute something to the family besides driving and all those things which I’d taken for granted for years. On leaving Rosehill I asked if there were any self-help books available which we could consult to assist, especially the family. The OTs repeated something we’d discussed before and voiced by my neurologist, that it was time to maybe write the book myself.

I learned that though there were numerous books, all written by American and Canadian authors, they were produced by specialists in the field who explained the causes of brain injury, their symptoms and treatments, but there wasn’t one work written by a sufferer. With the help of a distance writing course I began the task of putting together a book - the first in this country and published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2001 under the title Living with brain injury.

Since then I have written and had published, in UK and Malta newspapers and magazines, many articles dealing with brain injury, travel, local history, natural history and family ancestry. For the past two years I have been writing a series of articles for a national neurological nursing magazine and am currently writing a sequel to my book, provisionally entitled, Living with brain injury, thirty years on. I have also give public talks to groups of carers and families of brain injured people, litigators, social services managers and medical teams at our local hospital.

During the past 30 years I did manage to go back to work in my old role as a salesman and with the ending of my epilepsy I was able to start driving again. I took up my original role as head of the family, doing the accounts, decorating and many more. Now retired, I grow vegetables, make my own wine and write regularly for local and national newspapers and magazines. I have to add that much of what I have achieved would not have been possible without the support of my wife Pauline. Next year we will have been married for 50 years but for the past 30 I have not quite been the man she married

So then, is life after brain injury really possible?I hope you’ll agree it is and one doesn’t have to be superhuman to achieve it. It does, however, I feel, depend on certain important factors, some within a person’s control and others outside: (i) the cause of the brain injury ie whether by an accident or birth defect, (ii) the speed and type of medical care a victim receives, (iii) the determination on the part of the sufferer to get their life back on track, (iv) the support and encouragement of family and friends and (v) one’s faith and/or attitude to life. Everyone is, of course, different and so are their experiences.

If you are a victim of brain injury, a family member or carer for such a one or a specialist in the field, I hope these few words have given you encouragement not to give up hope but make it your goal to keep going in the face of adversity and that there really is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not another train.