In 2003, PC David Austin responded to a request for back up from a colleague attending a domestic incident in Worcester. On the way, David was involved in a collision with a transit van and suffered significant injuries including a brain injury and paralysis to the left-hand side of his body.
On arrival at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, David was place in an induced coma for four weeks to give him the best chance of recovery. Formerly a keen amateur boxer in peak physical condition, David faced a long and arduous recovery. First undergoing acute care in hospital, he later went on to undergo neurological rehabilitation at Selly Oak and Moseley Hall Hospitals in Birmingham.
“When I was told that it was likely I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, I vowed that I’d one day run a marathon. I feel that personally, I was very lucky to have a very positive experience of rehabilitation following my accident.
All members of the rehabilitation team were fantastic, and I was able to make a very good recovery. It was hard work as I had to relearn everything from scratch including being able to move normally on my left side, which been paralysed. I learned to walk, and later to run – and began my marathon training a few years later.”
David, now 41, made such a good recovery that he returned to his role as a police officer after just 18 months of rehabilitation. “I remained a serving officer for another 17 years after my return. I also completed not one, but two marathons too – one five years after my accident in 2008, and another in 2012.”
A year ago, David was ready for a new challenge. His earlier experience of police work, and subsequent experience recovery and rehabilitation had left him with an enduring wish to continue to support people. David began to investigate new options where his unique skills could be best used.
“I had previously worked with the charity Headway Worcester, which supports people who have experienced a head injury. They were a huge help to me during my earlier recovery and I had gone on to work as a volunteer. When I saw that Inspire Neurocare was opening, I got in touch with Marc, the manager to ask about volunteering positions at the service.”
David’s skills, compassion and insight into specialist neurocare and rehabilitation had a big impression on the Inspire team, who later went on to offer him a permanent role as a Life Skills Facilitator.
“Because I’ve had this completely life-changing experience, it gives me a greater insight into what people with brain injuries and other complex disabilities are experiencing. I can speak from my personal experience and what I went through. Some people take inspiration from the fact that in some cases I’ve been in almost their exact position – and now, I’m here and I had another chance at life.
Everyone has had a different experience of brain injury, but for me, one universal experience is the power of being positive and having positive people around you that makes a big difference.
Having help and committing yourself to the help that is offered by the team – from physiotherapy to occupational therapy and speaking about your mental state is key. It’s about feeling that you’re part of the therapy – you’re not just having things done to you. Being determined is a big factor in recovery.”
As a Life Skills Facilitator, David supports people to live their life as independently as possible, providing care, companionship and therapeutic interventions. “Whatever someone’s condition or symptoms, I help people to make the most of their lives and work towards their recovery. Inspire is a great place to work – with the service being so new, everyone is keen to ensure everything is done right – we all want to do the best for everyone who is here with us.”
David feels that mindset played a very important part of his recovery. “I tell people; be positive – as positive as you can be. Be patient, and don’t lose heart if things take a long time. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there. When you do, it will be even more satisfying.”