May 1, 2022 7.00 am

Nurse who suffered life-changing brain injury in car crash praises charity’s support

Claire is living with the physical and cognitive side effects of her injury

A newly qualified nurse who suffered a life-changing brain injury in a devastating car crash more than 20 years ago has praised a Lincolnshire charity for providing vital support during her recovery.

Claire Campbell, who was 25 at the time, was driving on the A46 between Grimsby and Lincoln to collect her nurse’s uniform when she was involved in the crash, which happened in 2001.

Her car veered off the road down a 30-foot embankment and she smashed her head against the inside of the car, suffering a traumatic head injury.

Claire’s life changed within a split second and it stopped her career in its tracks. She spent the following five months in Lincoln County Hospital, and she was in a coma for nearly eight weeks.

As she was recovering from her injuries in hospital, Claire got in touch with Headway Lincolnshire after spotting a poster on the ward promoting their services. It is affiliated with Headway, the brain injury association.

More than 20 years on from the car crash, the 46-year-old is living with the physical and cognitive side effects of her brain injury.

Her mum Marlene, 73, is her full-time carer as Claire has mobility issues and struggles to walk for long periods unaided, as well as suffering from slurred and slow speech.

Claire and Marlene have both benefitted from the support and contacts available through Headway Lincolnshire, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

One thing Claire wants to raise awareness of is that brain-injured people often require more time to complete tasks.

She said: “I always wear my sunflower lanyard when I’m out and about as a sign that I have a hidden disability.

“I also have my brain injury identity card from the National Police Chiefs Council which lists the problems I face: speech difficulties, memory loss, limited mobility and fatigue.

“On a good day I may be able to walk down the road on my own but in the past when people have seen me, I’ve been accused of being drunk because my walking isn’t stable. It’s so frustrating. Brain damage isn’t visible.”

She added: “In a county like Lincolnshire, which has very few facilities for the head injured, Headway Lincolnshire is absolutely fantastic.

“As well as providing a point of contact, they run multiple support groups and social events and our co-ordinator Ann-Marie is always available to talk to along with the charity’s trustees and physiotherapists like Jane Reams. They’ve been a godsend.

“The team is absolutely brilliant at organising events like lunches, bowling trips and days out. It’s about becoming socially active again and speaking to others who’ve had similar experiences.

“I also receive activity packs from Headway Lincolnshire to keep me occupied, with things like crossword puzzles, wellbeing packs, treats, recipes and seeds to plant. It’s something to look forward to and really helps me focus my brain.”

The Headway Lincolnshire team is currently inviting people to join them in honouring 35 years of service at its anniversary celebration in the Legends Lounge at Lincoln City’s LNER Stadium from 7pm on Friday, May 20. Anyone wishing to attend should email Ann-Marie Smith at [email protected] by May 7.

Ann-Marie Smith, co-ordinator and development officer at Headway Lincolnshire, said: “What people often forget is that people with brain injuries led fulfilling lives before their injuries.

“Tragically Claire was on her way to pick up her nurse’s uniform and ended up on the very ward that she was supposed to be working on.

“It just takes one split second – and your life and the lives of those around you are changed forever.”