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Just what is going on in his head: a patient's journey after a severe traumatic brain injury
  1. James Piercy1,
  2. Angelos G Kolias2,
  3. Peter J Hutchinson2
  1. 1Science Made Simple Ltd (East), Norwich, Norfolk, UK
  2. 2Division of Neurosurgery, Addenbrooke's Hospital & University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to James Piercy, Science Made Simple Ltd (East), 303 Dereham Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 3TJ, UK; james{at}

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A burst tyre

It was an ordinary day on 30 January 2011; I got with my ordinary family into my ordinary car and went for an ordinary drive along an ordinary road. At around midday, things became anything but ordinary. A burst tyre threw the car off the road into a tree and my world changed. My wife was killed and I suffered, what I later learned was called, a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

With the next 3 weeks lost in post-traumatic amnesia, it has taken helpful staff and close reading of the many pages of notes to try to make sense of what happened to me.

My good luck began very soon after. A police officer was, by chance, very close to the scene and able to keep my airway open. Within 30 min I was attended by a doctor carried by the East Anglian Air Ambulance. I had sustained a severe head injury with my Glasgow Coma Scale score established as 3–5. After removal from the wreck, I was anaesthetised to reduce the risk of secondary injury and flown to Addenbrooke's Hospital approximately 60 miles away.

With resuscitation ongoing, I was rushed for a full body CT and found to have a cracked rib, pneumothorax and bruising of my lungs. The CT head showed evidence of diffuse brain damage (figure 1).

Figure 1

An emergency CT scan of head showed evidence of multifocal intraparenchymal injuries with small foci of haemorrhage in the right frontal lobe (A), left basal ganglia (B) and left occipital lobe (C). There were also multiple facial and skull base fractures with significant extracranial soft tissue swelling. A MR …

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  • Competing interests JP is a science communicator with Science made simple. Since 1995 he has been involved in talking about and demonstrating science to adults and children. His talk “What's going on in his head?” was supported by the Wellcome trust and toured science festivals and hospitals during 2013. You can read his blog at AGK is supported by a Royal College of Surgeons of England Research Fellowship, a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship and a Raymond and Beverly Sackler Studentship. PJH is supported by a NIHR Research Professorship and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Colette Griffin, London, UK.

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