Memorandum by Mr Tom Howe (H10)
1. THE START
24 June 1994, and suddenly my life changed.
Previously it consisted of a responsible career, good marriage
and enjoyable life-style. Now I had been run down by a taxi in
London having to respond to a doctor's kiss-of-life.
I was taken to St Thomas' then to the National
Hospital which specialises in brain injury and then back to St
Thomas' beginning a three week coma. Numerous tests and brain
scans showed I had three fractures in my skull. When I emerged
from this coma I could neither speak nor remember anything including
the two daughters I adored.
2. HOSPITAL REHABILITATION
An arm and a leg did not function and I was
pushed around in a wheelchair by friends. As my limbs recovered
I kept trying to escape and a nurse was left to guard the door.
Eventually I discharged myself.
3. RETURN TO
As I improved I should have been sent to a more
local hospital for full recuperation but this never happened.
Instead I went home leading to immense stress between me, my wife
and two children, one of whom was taking her "A" Level
examinations. They all found my brain injury very hard to cope
with but who was there to help them? I had made good physical
recovery but very little mentally. I began to walk short distances
and, during this time pushed myself to try to think and remember.
My wife had been advised to contact Headway.
I reluctantly started at Headway in December
1994. However, it gradually became a lifeline for me and my confidence
started to grow. I was given the task of leading the Monday group,
therefore having to think and plan in preparation thus improving
my own logic.
In August 1995, we went on holiday to Portugal
and one morning I had a fit leading to a 12 month ban on driving.
The licence came back on 13 August 1996, and I was yearning to
drive with a new zest for life.
6. ALL WORK
That zest was killed in September 1997 when
I was asked to take an All Work Test. The result of this cancelled
my long-term Incapacity Benefit on 28 November 1997. Headway advised
me to go to the Job Centre who paid me approximately £48
weekly. This was cancelled after six months because my wife and
I had our own savings. The cancellation of Incapacity Benefit
led to numerous meetings/correspondence with Alan Hurst, MP for
Braintree and a string of cross-office letters between various
departments in the House of Commons.
With Headway's support I attended several sessions
with a Neuro-Psychologist, had Speech and Language Therapy and
even tried an appeal. This was hardly the sort of experience you
would expect a person who had suffered severe head injury to endure.
For much of the time I was close to breaking down.
7. THE APPEAL
An Independent Tribunal Service felt sorry for
me but the two channels which exist in the All Work Test cover
those with physical problems and those with mental problems, no
area for severe head injury, so they upheld the original decision.
8. THE SOLUTION
Headway's relentless efforts were then rewarded.
In the Disability Rights Handbook it said"You are
exempt from the All Work Test if you satisfy any one of these
conditions:-multiple effects of impairment of function of the
brain or nervous system causing severe and irreversible motor,
sensory and intellectual deficits eg from severe stroke, brain
tumour, head injury". So I, and many others like me at Headway,
was exempt from the test. Suddenly Social Security having been
informed of something they should already have known renewed the
Incapacity Benefit from 2 September 1998.
I had been given a three year driving licence
on 13 August 1996 and wrote to DVLA in July 1999 confidently stating
that I had suffered no fits, had no problems and would presumably
have my licence automatically renewed. A letter dated 19 October
1999 from a certain DVLA doctor arrived banning me from driving
because of "a history of alcohol misuse within the past 12
months". Unfortunately individuals like me are not allowed
to speak to people in this hierarchical position and I had to
get my own doctor to do so.
Forget the fact that I had never in my life
had one drink and driven. Forget the fact that I had conducted
my own breathalyser test the morning after drinking red wine,
showing no adverse effects. Forget the fact that despite six weeks
of not drinking anything containing alcohol my Gamma rating initially
dropped then increased in the sixth week. Could it be something
to do with taking Epilim and Prozac daily because of the original
head injury. The DVLA attitude was so demeaning that I felt massively
insecure and that my brain was back in the derogatory mode it
had been five years earlier. Finally I got my licence back for
one year only.
Three years ago with my wife's consent I moved
away from my home to preserve our marriage. With my father and
a good friends help I am now making incredible progress. I no
longer attend Headway, but we stay very close.