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“I felt like someone had broken in and stolen my energy”

In recent years, there’s been increased awareness of how devastating just one punch can be. Jessica Brown spoke to James Inkson Stevens about how his attack gave him a new focus.

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The internet can often feel like a vapid place, propped up by self-interested, shallow interactions as users compete for the most subscribers, views and shares.

But reluctant YouTuber James Inkson Stevens has what most content creators don’t; he’s in regular contact with at least half of his subscribers.

He sometimes gets frustrated with making videos, and finds the process very tiring, but keeping Stevens going is the memory of how alone he felt 16 months ago, after he was assaulted and left with a traumatic brain injury.

Stevens, 35, was working as an actor in London before he decided to move back to Southampton, where his family live, to buy a flat.

He’d saved for a deposit and was viewing flats, and hoped to have his first home in within the next few months. But what happened during a friend’s birthday celebrations on March 1st last year completely derailed his plans.

In a strange twist of fate, Stevens had just been to visit his older sister, who was in the Wessex Neurological Centre after having an aneurysm a few days earlier. When he left to get the bus to town, he couldn’t have known that he’d be back there four hours later, as a patient himself.

At the pub that evening, Stevens got into a disagreement with a friend.

“It wasn’t a heated argument, more of an end-of-our-friendship sort of thing,” Stevens says.

“He was being nasty to people. He’d come to my birthday a few months before and done the same thing. He’d occasionally put me down, told me I was a failed actor, and he’d had enough chances. I walked away with my back to him.”

Stevens’ attacker, who was, he estimates, about four stone heavier than him, ran up behind him and punched the back of his head. Stevens’ skull cracked on the pavement, and while his friends waited for the ambulance to arrive, an off-duty nurse walking past spotted Stevens lying on the ground and noticed that it didn’t look like he was breathing.

Just as she went to feel Stevens’ pulse, he gasped for air. He was later told by specialists it’s possible his heart stopped and started up again on its own.

Before the attack, Stevens was working full time at a letting’s agency. He walked miles every day, went to the gym three times a week and spent a few hours every weekday writing a novel. Now, Stevens is staying with family, unable to work.

“The work ethic and the energy I had, I felt like someone broke in and stole it from me. The book is going a hell of a lot slower now,” he says.

He describes his life now as much like the recent lockdown.

“Life was like this before, for me. I see friends about twice a month; it takes a week for me to get back to normal energy again, but it’s worth it.”

His doctors explained to Stevens that traumatic brain injury was like a ‘muddy puddle’. They told him his recovery so far has been consistent with what they expected, but they can’t predict how it will go beyond the 18-month mark, in two months’ time.

Stevens’ short-term memory has taken the biggest hit, and he suffers with chronic neuro fatigue and pains across his head if he concentrates of exerts himself too much, and has chronic oversensitivity to loud noises.

When he came out of hospital, Stevens didn’t feel like he had the energy to retell what had happened to all his friends, so he filmed a video and posted it online.

He decided to continue making videos because he knows he can help encourage people to have positive attitude, when he’s feeling positive himself, and spread awareness.

“Having a strong support network helped me in the early days, but I still felt unbelievably alone. A friend told me about brain injury support groups on Facebook and I soon didn’t feel alone anymore. People were processing the same things I was going through,” Stevens says.

Stevens attributes his confidence to his career in acting, and says he feels lucky to have retained that.

“The more I research traumatic brain injury, I realised how lucky I was to still have that ability, and that the damage hadn’t been a bit to the left or the right.”

But he finds filming and uploading the videos tiring, and pushes himself because he wants to connect with others, and help others without a community connect with each other.

“It’s important to help in whatever way I can. It helps me feel less powerless. And this is the only way I can help.”

But he doesn’t want to portray his own recovery inaccurately.

“One viewer told me I seem high functioning. Maybe I am, it probably seems that way, but simple things take their toll,” he says.

“On the surface, particularly when I’ve had a coffee, I can seem normal. I was already a motormouth before, and my injury hasn’t affected that, but people don’t see how much making a video takes it out of me afterwards. You can’t get an accurate view of someone from 30 minutes a week.”

Stevens compares life before his brain injury to being a third of the way up the Snakes and Ladders board.

“When the brain injury happened, a snake came out of nowhere and I slipped to square one, but then the entire board flipped over and when it was rewritten it was a new game I’d never heard of and couldn’t understand. Every day I’m learning the rules.”

You can watch Stevens’ videos here. In addition to his own YouTube channel, Stevens was recently a guest on the ‘A Battle Within’ podcast.

 

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Video: everyday vs specialist tech

Assistive technology Expert Andy Fell joins Irwin Mitchell law firm for an in-depth exploration of the very latest independence-boosting devices and platforms.

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Technology plays a day to day role in our lives and mobile phones, tablets, Alexa and Siri are common place.

Imagine the impact on your life if you were no longer able to interact with a touch screen or keyboard or give voice commands….

In this virtual event, Assistive Technology expert Andy Fell gives practical demonstrations of how everyday technology and specialist technology can be used to help give independence to those who need it most and why specialist technology may be needed.

During the event hosted by Lauren Haas, personal injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell LLP, Andy goes into detail about what apps and gadgets are on the market, how everyday technology can be optimised such as the Amazon Alexa, and answered a number of questions ranging from touch screen sensitivity to smart watch reminders.

Case managers, ancillary medical professionals, as well as interested members in healthcare, social care, parents and clients may find this recording useful, as well as anyone caring for, working or living with people such as dementia sufferers or sufferers of other conditions which restrict their mobility.

Andy Fell is an independent disability and assistive technology (AT) consultant with almost twenty years’ experience working with all disabilities and age groups.

He is a qualified Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually Impaired and, since qualification, has lectured on the use of assistive technology and role of AT in the life of disabled people.

He has worked with a wide range of charitable organisations including British Dyslexia Association, was head of assistive technology for Guide Dogs for the Blind and National Disability Advisor for the Royal Yacht Association.

He has also worked for blue chip companies, the emergency services and various government departments including Department for Work and Pensions.

Andy is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, chairman and founding trustee of the Wetwheels Foundation and sat on the British Dyslexia Association – Workplace Assessors Professional Review Panel.

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The relationship between music and running

By Daniel Thomas, joint managing director of Chroma Therapies.

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By Daniel Thomas, joint managing director of Chroma Therapies

With its ability to produce new neural pathways, Neurologic Music Therapy is able to encourage movement, co-ordination, improve speech and language, and improve the ability to read/feel emotions, reactions and more, in people living with catastrophic injuries.

This is because music automatically connects to the brain. And this automaticity is what makes music so powerful.

Music also has to ability to push your training capabilities farther and faster especially in running.

This is why a running playlist is the ideal accompaniment to any runner.

Each songs tempo stimulates the brain, evoking a running response of either a faster pace or a steady rhythm depending on what you want to achieve.

For a faster pace, a good running playlist should contain songs with 150-180bpm.

Unfortunately, with not many songs out there using that speed (unless you enjoy rock, metal or speed garage for running) than the other option is to choose songs with 75-90bpm, as this tempo is perfect for a steady rhythm and maximising efficiency.

Do you recall an earlier blog where we discussed cadence and stride length using NMT for preventing falls in the elderly?

We suggested music with a high bpm count promotes movement, good cadence and walking speed, so songs like Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots are Made for Walkin’, which has 85 bpm, is ideal.

BPM strongly correlates to step cadence.

Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) is an important aspect of NMT.

Predictable rhythmic structure allows the sensori-motor system to move in sync with the beat.

This is, in essence, why music is important to runners, as it has the ability to communicate with the brain in order to help maintain a steady pace or increase speed depending on the bpm.

When it comes to mental wellbeing, we will always discuss music’s ability to improve mental wellbeing, and its effect can also be attributed to runners.

Music’s ability to improve stride, cadence and style, to produce better and better runs, and enable runners to achieve personal goals also have a positive effect upon mental wellbeing.

A sense of accomplishment. And with the right playlist, runners can end each run on a high.

We also like to discuss how NMT is more effective when it is personalised to that individual.

The same can be said in the case of a runner. A playlist that includes, not only songs with the ideal tempo for them, but also have some personal meaning, have the greatest positive effect upon runners.

The more enjoyable the run, the less fatigue is experienced. This may be due to the fact that music is able to interfere with the parts of the brain that communicate fatigue, essentially causing a distraction, so less fatigue is experienced.

For runners, the relationship between music and running can be seen to be just as effective and important as the relationship between music and recovering from a brain injury.

Its ability to improve running capability, speed, motivation, and promote mental wellbeing is what makes the difference between a run just being a run and reaching ‘Flow State’ – the mental state where the runner is in the moment of running – no distractions, and the run becomes…euphoric.

Read more: Running in the name of mental health

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News

Concussion could lead to depression, ADHD, dementia and Parkinson’s – study

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A new study has revealed a link between concussion and the risk of being diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood and anxiety disorders, dementia and Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Despite ‘clinical recovery’ from concussion typically lasting one week, a team of researchers from the University of Manitoba suspected there may be longer term effects. They used 25 years of population-based health data between 1990 and 2015, involving almost 50,000 cases of concussion from people living in Manitoba, Canada.

They found that concussion was associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood and anxiety disorders (MADs), dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

After analysing the population data, they found that concussion was linked to an increased risk of diagnosis of ADHD, dementia and Parkinson’s.

Women who had a concussion were at greater risk of developing ADHD and MADs, but there were no differences between men and women for the risk of developing dementia or Parkinson’s.

Multiple concussions didn’t affect the risk of later being diagnosed with ADHD, but a second concussion increased the risk of dementia, while exposure to more than three concussions increased the risk of being diagnosed with MADs.

While previous studies have found links between concussion and ADHD, dementia, Parkinson’s and MADs, most have relied on patients self-reporting their symptoms, the researchers write.

However, this study can only show an association, not cause and effect.

The mechanism behind this increased risk is unknown, but the researchers state it’s possible that the pathways of some biomarkers that are dysregulated in ADHD, Mads, dementia and Parkinson’s, namely, cortisol, are also affected after a concussion.

The paper, published in the BMJ journal, states that future research is needed to explore the relationships between concussion and ADHD, MADs, dementia and Parkinson’s in other populations.

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