Practice A Patient’s Journey

Acquired brain injury

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c808 (Published 19 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c808
  1. Linda Kat, patient1,
  2. Karen Schipper, psychologist 1, PhD student 2,
  3. Jeroen Knibbe, physician specialising in persons with (intellectual) disabilities and acquired brain injury1,
  4. Tineke A Abma, associate professor and research coordinator2
  1. 1Reinaerde, Netherlands
  2. 2VU Medical Center, Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute, PO Box 7057, 1081 BT Amsterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to: K Schipper k.schipper{at}vumc.nl
  • Accepted 5 December 2009

Linda Kat was 40 when surgery left her with acquired brain injury. She tells of her initial shock, her frustrations, and her need to make her own choices

My problems began eight years ago, when I was 40 years old. I lived with my husband and 2 year old daughter. Because I had problems with my eyes I visited my general practitioner. I suffered diplopia and, after examination, my general practitioner sent me to a neurologist. I had a number of examinations, including magnetic resonance imaging, a scary experience. Shortly afterwards, the neurologist asked me to come to see him immediately as they had found a brain tumour. I was shocked. I had never thought about this possibility. An operation was necessary. I was told I would definitely die without it. But the operation was not without risks. The doctor told me that I would “never be the same again after the operation” and that “my life expectancy wasn’t that high if the tumour proved to be malignant.” I felt, however, that I had no choice and that I understood the risks and consequences. The information didn’t really get through to me. I was just trying to survive. There was no room for doubt.

The shock of having an acquired brain injury

The operation caused severe acquired brain injury. Shortly after the operation I was unable to walk, talk, smile, or eat, and I had problems with my sight. Nowadays I need a wheelchair. My face is also paralysed, so I can’t express my emotions. I can’t laugh or kiss anymore, and I have problems with eating. I also have problems with talking, so I can’t express myself well. As a result, people often fail to understand my conversations. They pretend to understand me. That’s the most awful thing; it makes me feel frustrated and angry when people …

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