Brain Injury Awareness Week – Andy’s story

Posted: 21/05/24

a man smiling wearing a blue t-shirt

This Brain Injury Awareness Week, Andy shares what life with a brain injury is like for him.

“Having my accident has given me a new perspective on life.”

Andy Connor was just 23 when he had a devastating accident that would change his life.

In 2019, he was at the superkart championships in Northern Ireland when he crashed his kart at 120mph, leaving him in a coma.

Andy suffered from bleeding and swelling on his brain and had eight blood clots. Surgeons had to remove part of his skull.

He spent two months in a coma at Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital, before being moved to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

“I remember little things from before the accident but I can’t remember travelling to Belfast,” he said.

“I remember waking up in the hospital after being in a coma and couldn’t believe how long I’d been there.”

Andy’s dad was with him when the accident happened. “It was awful for my mam and dad,” he said. “They had to keep flying back and forth to Belfast and didn’t know whether I would wake up or what I’d be like if I did.”

After he was discharged from hospital, Andy was referred to Northumberland Head Injuries Service, part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW).

He did a year of rehab with the service, working to improve his memory and cognitive skills.

Andy added: “I received great care from the head injuries service. I feel like they really cared about trying to get me back on track.”

Five years later, Andy says he still feels like a different person after the accident. “I don’t think I’ll ever fully get back to how I was before,” he said. “But I’m doing alright, I’m getting there.”

Life looks a bit different for Andy now.

“My memory is terrible and it can take me a long time to process things,” he explained. “My balance isn’t great either.

“If I’m a bit slow or can’t hear, people can be quite short with you. Sometimes I struggle with listening and have to write everything down.

“People don’t realise there’s anything wrong with me. I just look like a normal person; you wouldn’t know I’d had a brain injury. People can think I’m stupid but they don’t know if you’re struggling or what you might find more difficult.”

Andy has been able to find positives from his experience.

The accident led him to a change in career. He used to work in building and construction, now he’s a gym instructor.

“My experience has opened up new opportunities for me. If it wasn’t for my accident, I wouldn’t be doing the job I do now which I really enjoy. It’s sociable and I feel like I’m helping people.

“I’m a lot more empathetic with people now. My accident has definitely given me a different perspective. It’s made me think that you only have one life and you need to live it.”

Northumberland Head Injuries Service offers a range of services for people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, including rehabilitation and social care. The service is available for Northumberland residents aged 16 and over.