Yvonne’s Story – mental health, challenges, and barriers

Yvonne Rogers is one of our clients. She wanted to share her story and some of the ups and downs that can happen in the life of a brain injury survivor. Elaine Ricketts is her Case Manager and she helped us to write this article and checked with Yvonne that it accurately represented her story.

Overview/Diagnosis of Yvonne

On 10 September 2010, Yvonne went into diabetic ketoacidosis and was admitted to Good Hope Hospital in a comatose state.  Yvonne’s condition was stabilised in the Intensive Care Unit, and she later underwent emergency surgery for drainage; this was for a subdural haematoma at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Yvonne remained at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital until August 2011. During this time, Yvonne underwent several further surgical procedures for drainage of fluid from the brain.  She had the following conditions:

  • Brain Injury
  • Ventricular peritoneal shunt
  • Peripheral nerve damage
  • Frozen shoulder 
  • Shortening of Achilles tendon

The challenges Yvonne faced

Yvonne was excited about moving into her new dream home in 2018. At the time, she had some level of independence regarding her mobility, using her electric wheelchair out in the community and a walking frame around the home. Since her injuries, Yvonne has received private and local authority support for quality of life and to enable her to remain in her own home.

However, following several unforeseen problems, the move was placed on hold. The main reason for this was a leak at the property that caused extensive damage to what would have been Yvonne’s bedroom, ensuite and hallway.

After several months of structural and cosmetic work to rectify the damage and complete adaptions, Yvonne was able to move into the property in September 2019 with plans to enjoy her new surroundings.

Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in 2020/21. At the same time, there was a deterioration in Yvonne’s health, suffering a stroke, which impacted Yvonne’s mobility. This was due to severe left-sided weakness. Upon discharge, Yvonne needed her support team to hoist her for transfers. Yvonne was now more dependent on her carers and her support team. Yvonne could no longer walk using her walking frame as she had before the move. Yvonne remained positive, but there were some struggles with low mood at times. Yvonne’s AKA support team rallied around and went above and beyond to support the additional needs during this time.

After months of recuperating, Yvonne began to build up her strength and confidence with the input of the NHS, private physiotherapy, and support from her AKA team.

However, before long, Yvonne began to experience some severe discomfort and pain in her lower back. Following a referral by the GP to the Urology department, it transpired that Yvonne had kidney stones, which Yvonne was admitted to the hospital to have removed. Following discharge and drainage, Yvonne was rushed back into hospital with an infection and was in intensive care, where it was touch and go as to whether her health would improve or not.

This was a really difficult time for Yvonne; even though she had needed support before, she was a strong, independent woman who had been a carer herself before her injuries. Following Yvonne’s return home, her mobility was greatly reduced. This had a significant impact on her not only physically but mentally as well. This was then further impacted by a collision in her wheelchair, which led to a spiral fracture and Yvonne being advised she may not walk again.

Yvonne had some very low times; she struggled with losing her independence and told us that, at times, she thought often about ending her life. She even wrote letters to her loved ones in preparation.

Supporting Yvonne to regain her passion for life

The AKA team, led by Elaine, spent time with Yvonne, listening and empathising with her feelings and experiences. The team supported Yvonne through the difficult times and coordinated support from the GP, Adult Social Services, and the Community Mental Health Team.

Support workers were visiting regularly to monitor Yvonne’s mood and secure medication to ensure that Yvonne could not take more than she had been prescribed. This was particularly challenging as Yvonne has diabetes, so she needs access to insulin regularly. Risk assessments were carried out to manage Yvonne’s medication routine. Yvonne did engage with some community mental health support for a short time.

After the home visits had finished, Yvonne was asked to attend a local centre for a mental health assessment. Unfortunately, on three occasions, the appointments on arrival were cancelled. Yvonne became frustrated and despondent, so we wanted to seek alternative support. As a team, we were still concerned about how Yvonne was presenting and verbalising her intentions about continuing.

The GP identified that Yvonne was suffering from PTSD; it was also discussed that Yvonne may also benefit from grief counselling following personal loss and support with emotional regulation. As such, the AKA Case Management team discussed with Yvonne counselling sessions, and Yvonne agreed to give these a go.   

Yvonne reports that these are beneficial as they allow her time to discuss her feelings and explore the reasons for her fluctuating mood.

Yvonne lost her mum during the pandemic, which was a contributing factor to Yvonne’s mental health. It was evident that the loss had been an emotional blow; her mum had been such a big part of her life. Yvonne has expressed that so much anxiety and pain had built up, and it was this that was impacting her overall health. Yvonne is grateful for the support she is now receiving from the Counsellor that the AKA team identified.

A strong and independent Yvonne

The AKA Team and additional therapy support have helped Yvonne move toward a more positive place in her life.

Yvonne moved into her ‘forever home’ in 2019 but had not been able to appreciate it because of her poor health and low mood. She is now in a better mindset; she is upbeat and happy, and her cheeky personality has slowly returned with the ongoing support from the AKA team, Counselor, and physiotherapist.

Yvonne said, ‘The AKA team all helped me to gain some purpose in my life. Even at my lowest point, they kept coming to see me and ensuring I was safe. They are like my family; I would be totally lost without them.

Yvonne is now being supported in focusing on her hobbies and interests, which include gardening, arts and crafts, and attending social events. Yvonne is now spending time in her beautiful garden, which she absolutely loves.

Yvonne told us, ‘I love potting plants and have an outbuilding where I can do this independently. My lettuces are nearly ready, and I have been growing potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots too.’

In addition, Yvonne has adapted one of her bedrooms and made it into a large craft room. She had this adapted with two large double doors in the lounge, which allow extra light. Yvonne has thrown herself into making gorgeous handmade crafts, which she plans to sell to raise money for charities such as Mind and Age Concern.

We asked Yvonne what she’s currently working on. She said, ‘I am making a Christmas wreath for a friend. I was going to make it last year, but I was away, so I have started this one early. I have also made Christmas tree decorations. I want to make lots to sell and raise money for charity.’

We were also pleased to hear that Yvonne had returned to her bicycle club, where she had previously participated. Yvonne attends with her Personal Assistant, Demi, once a week. With guidance from her physiotherapist, this helps with strength and confidence and reduces muscle waste. As this is an outdoor activity, it means Yvonne is benefiting from the fresh air and also socialising with others, which will continue, along with Yvonne’s other interests and hobbies, to benefit her mental health and overall well-being.

It is fair to say that Yvonne has endured a difficult time over the past few years, but we are delighted that with ongoing support and Yvonne’s positivity and strong, independent nature, she is making the most of her beautiful home, getting out and about, and maximising her quality of life.

We would like to thank Yvonne for sharing her story. We think she is a real inspiration to others who may have struggled with mental health, physical and other debilitating challenges. Whilst it does take time, it is evident that there is always hope that you can move forward and through the difficult times with a positive outlook.

Elaine Ricketts, Case Manager, has worked with Yvonne since October 2017. Yvonne has an AKA support team which includes:

  • Team Leader – Emma Bralee.
  • Personal Assistant – Demi Hodson
  • Support workers – Karen Free
  • Support worker – Melinda Craig (Agency)

Yvonne also receives support with x 4 local authority calls from Bluebird Care for personal care, washing and dressing.