Daniel Serrao – My Story
Daniel’s Story of Brain Injury
Before his accident, Daniel was a healthy, fit young man. He had attended a Catholic school and completed his HSC. He had attended TAFE and was working as a landscaper and labourer. Daniel was heavily involved in his passion for sport and fitness. He went to the gym daily and played rugby union and rugby league. Daniel enjoyed social gatherings with his family and friends.
In August 2010, when he was 20 years old, Daniel was struck by a car driven by a drunken P plater and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Daniel was rushed to Westmead Hospital in an unconscious state and the doctors performed life saving surgery to remove a large clot from the left hand side of his brain. To do this procedure, the neurosurgeon removed the left hand side of Daniel’s skull, which is called a craniotomy.
Daniel spent one month in the intensive care unit ventilated on life support and placed in two induced comas. During this time Daniel suffered swelling of the brain, extremely high temperatures, ventilated phenomena and blood clots and had to have a tracheotomy (a tube inserted into his wind pipe to keep it open to allow him to breath and stop him from choking).
After one month Daniel was assessed as being stable enough to be transferred to the High Dependency Unit of Intensive Care. Daniel spent two months there whilst the doctors tried to ascertain what was causing the high temperatures. Finally it was discovered that Daniel had septicaemia – infection of the blood. Tests were continually being performed on Daniel. He had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach to feed him. A line inserted into his right shoulder so that all blood tests and medications could be given through this line, instead of constantly sticking him with needles. During these two months Daniel could open his eyes, but was not responding to commands. Daniel could not communicate with us and slept most of the time.
Three months after being admitted to Intensive Care – in November 2010 – Daniel was finally stable enough to be transferred to The Brain Injury Unit in the grounds of Westmead Hospital. This was truly a memorable day – one that Daniel’s family and his huge group of friends had longed for. We were informed once he gets to the Brain Injury Unit things will start to happen….maybe not a first, but then he will take off.
Every day, the head of the rehabilitation unit and his team of therapists worked with Daniel…small things happened at first. Daniel communicated to us using a small white board and he would point to the letters of the alphabet and we would have to transcribe his messages to us. In January 2011, Daniel took his firsts steps on the long road back to learning how to walk again. In addition to relearning to walk, Daniel had to learn to do everything else from scratch again. He finally had his tracheotomy removed in January 2011 as well.
Daniel could now swallow drink and food, but had to be strictly monitored and started on thickened fluids then purees. Great care had to be taken so that Daniel did not choke and develop pneumonia again.
Daniel had his cranioplasty surgery to replace the bone back on the left side of his head in March 2011…this was a worrying time as Daniel suffered with temperatures again and had to be placed on antibiotics. Since the injury, Daniel suffers from spasticity – muscle contractions due to a change in the messages that the brain sends to his muscles. His hands are particularly affected and he has difficulty with fine motor skills.
Daniel continued to progress slowly under the guidance of the rehabilitation physician and his team and after seven and a half months in the Brain Injury Unit was finally discharged home in June 2011.
It has been a very long road for Daniel, his family and his friends. We have carers in our home 7 days a week to assist us in taking care of Daniel and helping with his rehabilitation. Most people who suffer a brain injury experience fatigue. The brain can get over-stimulated easily and this just tires the person out. Daniel suffers hugely from fatigue and needs many periods of rest during the day. Daniel suffered depression after coming home and threatened to harm himself and his carer. This was a very hard time as there is basically nowhere for people with brain injuries to go to in a period of distress. Daniel now takes medication and is a much calmer person.
As a result of being in a coma for so long, Daniel developed ossification – excessive bone growth- on his left hip and had to have major surgery to remove this large piece of bone in June 2012.
Daniel still has therapists working with him on all aspects – physical, speech, independence, emotions- and he has come a long way. Daniel had a neuropsychological assessment in May 2012 and the results show he is still in recovery mode and should continue to make small improvements in his thinking skills for a while yet.
It is hard to say what Daniel’s future will be. It is certainly very different from what he had planned for himself back in August 2010, before the accident. One of the hardest things for Daniel is that his friends and family have continued to move on to the next stages in their lives, while he has been stopped in his tracks and forced to slowly relearn how to do most things most of us all take for granted.
Daniel and his family feel that it is important to remain hopeful and value every forward step. They also strongly advise drivers to think twice before driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver that hit Daniel may think it was a momentary mistake, but Daniel has suffered a traumatic brain injury that will be with him for the rest of his life. Daniel and his family saw many others, mostly between the ages of 17 –25 years old in the Brain Injury Unit, suffering from similar fates. Therefore Daniel and his family would like the chance to “give back” and raise funds to help others who end up in the Brain Injury Unit in the future, just like Daniel.