Major rise in brain injury referrals locally

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The number of people with brain injuries being referred to the Western Trust for treatment has risen by almost 80 per cent over the last five years, it has been confirmed.

The Western Trust is joining forces with Headway and the Cedar Foundation to highlight ‘Brain Injury Awareness Week’ and are inviting the public to join them on a walk tomorrow (Wednesday) to highlight the issue.

Around 3,600 people each year in Derry and the wider western region attend hospital with a head injury, the Trust has confirmed - a rise of 77 per cent on five years ago.

Of those people presenting, 85 per cent of these will be mild in nature, while the remainder will require care and support.

The majority of survivors are young people aged 16-28, who will have a normal life expectancy.

The Western Trust established its Community Brain Injury Service in 2002, and has developed an innovative service whereby a brain injury specialist nurse receives referrals from the hospital emergency departments, to follow-up and help people understand and manage their concussion symptoms to prevent longer-lasting complications.

The Trust also runs Spruce House at Altnagelvin, a 17-bed specialist facility.

The team working there, led by Rehabilitation Medicine Consultant Dr Danny Smith, are skilled in the assessment, evaluation of needs and rehabilitation programmes of care for patients who have an acquired brain injury or neuro-disability.

Each patient’s programme of care is tailored towards their individual circumstances. The staff within the unit have experience and expertise in identifying and understanding the effects created by brain injury and neurological disorders, coupled with the resources to assist, educate and facilitate patients in their rehabilitation.

Dr Shane McCarney, Western Trust Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Community Brain Injury Service Lead Clinician said: “We are grateful to be able to work alongside our colleagues in Headway and the Cedar Foundation to raise awareness to the wider public of brain injury.

“Brain injuries may lead to a number of different problems such as personality changes, cognitive deficits such as memory loss, physical disabilities, speech and language difficulties and sensory changes. The Western Trust Community Brain Injury Service, alongside our colleagues in Spruce House, help people with brain injury to recover, rehabilitate and regain their independence.

“I would encourage everyone to come along and join us on our walk during Brain Injury Awareness Week.

“By highlighting the effects of such potentially devastating injuries, we hope to give people pause to consider the implications of their behaviour and actions on their own and other people’s lives – through the use of alcohol and drugs, assaults and reckless driving in particular.”

*The event tomorrow will take place at 1pm, meeting at the top of Ebrington Square and walking to Guildhall, for a ‘meet and greet’ with the Mayor. Those taking part will also be taken on a tour of the Guildhall.