High above the M25, a buzzard cuts through the December sky. Scanning the tarmac below, it spots something edible and begins its rapid descent.

At ground level, Michelle Munt is driving her smart car, completely unaware that her life is about to change forever.

Traffic ahead suddenly slows. She takes her foot off the gas.

The lorry behind should be slowing too. But in those crucial seconds of reaction, the buzzard has smashed beak-first into its windscreen.

The driver can’t see the road, or Michelle, and sends her relative tin can of a car flying into the crash barrier.

“I can’t remember much about it,” says Michelle of her accident in 2014.

“I was conscious when the paramedics came but I don’t think I was making any sense. They quickly decided they needed to airlift me to a London hospital and had to knock me out for the flight as I was getting agitated.”

A fellow motorist noticed the company signage on her car and called her colleagues at the London Hairdresser Apprenticeship Academy; who notified her partner James.

“The first thing I remember is someone asking me if I knew who James was. They were asking where I lived and where I worked and I couldn’t answer.

“I was in hospital for 10 days. Every day they would do an assessment, asking me to remember the words red, horse, velvet and church and not once did I get it right.

“It was coming up to Christmas and they did another assessment to see if I was able to cope at home. This involves making a cup of tea. Initially I didn’t even notice I hadn’t put the kettle on properly.

“Then once I did make the teas, the woman assessing me had asked for a black tea and I’d put milk in it but I blamed her, rather than taking responsibility. I said ‘nobody has black tea so it’s a stupid thing to ask for’.

“To me there were a few things that showed my thinking process wasn’t quite right – the fact that I was so defensive and aggressive about the cup of tea, just wasn’t me. I would normally have said ‘Oh my God, I’m sorry.”

Despite feeling unprepared to go home, Michelle was discharged. It wasn’t until six months later than an MRI picked up her diffuse axonal injury.

Before then, she struggled to make sense of her post-accident self.

“I had foot-drop, weakness in my left side and they had just about managed to get me up and walking, but I was apparently fine to go home. When I first left hospital, there was no mention of a brain injury.

“Obviously, I had been in the neuro department so there was some idea, but we were left to assume that perhaps I had concussion.

“They kept saying that ‘we don’t really know what is causing these symptoms but it will probably get better on its own’. They didn’t really explain why I was struggling cognitively.”

In the months before diagnosis, Michelle struggled to read and write and it took several weeks for rehabilitation helping her to stand and walk to take effect.

Partner James noted that she had become a completely different person, describing her as ‘incredibly vacant’. The diagnosis came as part of Michelle’s legal case and was the catalyst for Michelle’s new role as a brain injury crusader.

“I always thought my case couldn’t be that unique because it was a car accident and it wasn’t that bad. If you saw the car afterwards, you wouldn’t think that the driver had sustained a brain injury.

“I started blogging about brain injury and found lots of other brain injury survivors were connecting with me. They were saying things like ‘I’ve been looking for the words to help to describe this and how to talk about it. Thank you so much’.”

This was the starting point for Michelle’s enterprise, Jumbled Brain, which now coaches brain injury survivors and carers across the globe. Part of this is a six-week self-study course featuring videos and online content.

Her website asks fellow brain injury survivors: ’Do you feel like something is missing? Everyone says you’re doing great and you should be thankful, and you are. But what if I told you that you don’t have to settle for the way you feel?

She also runs one-to-one consultations shaped by her own experiences, and oversees a closed Facebook group; enabling thousands of users to share their hopes and fears with people going through the same experiences.

“It’s a very talkative group with a lot of activity all the time. It’s great because members don’t have to worry about anything they say being shared all over the internet.”

Michelle also draws on a previous career in recruitment to help brain injury survivors back into the workplace. Her ‘Ace the interview masterclass’ and other videos on ‘nailing the interview’ aim to revive careers lost in the collateral of brain injuries.

“The interview process is scary for most people anyway. But with a brain injury, you might feel you’ve got something weighing heavily on you, or be worried that you’ve got a gap on your CV.

“You might also think that the interviewer is going to discriminate against you because of the brain injury.

“There is also a piece about what employers can ask you and what they shouldn’t ask you, what to tell them and when to tell them.

“You don’t want to get a job and then turn up on day one and say ‘oh by the way I can’t do this because I’ve got a brain injury’, but also you don’t want to be in a position where the employer gets absolutely terrified and turns you down as brain injury is such a big term.

“For me, when I had to give up my job and I lost my career, I lost my identity. You almost feel like you need a new purpose again.

“When you have a brain injury there is a disconnect between what your life feels like and where you want to be. You quite easily end up over-criticising yourself and you just lose all of your confidence.

“So I am helping them with that too. I help them to think about what their goals really are and try to find a way towards them. Especially when you have symptoms like brain fog, it is really difficult to think clearly and to put action plans together.

“I work with clients on thinking processes and how they can really take charge of their lives again, because when this has happened to you it feels a lot like everyone else has a role; the doctor, the physio and so on, but you are just someone who is doing what you’re told.

“Whereas I help them to regain some of that control over their own lives.”

Michelle finds much of her following in the US.

“Obviously, being online enables me to access a bigger audience than just the UK. What I like about being online is that if you do sessions which are pre-recorded, you can download them when they’re ready.

“Quite often when you’ve got a brain injury and you’re struggling with fatigue or you can’t concentrate, someone giving you appointments to say ‘we are going to talk about this right now’ might not work for you.

“Individuals need to be able to engage with it when they feel they can take it on board.”

Sometimes Michelle’s work is ad-hoc – a quick blog or video dispersed into the brain injury network. Often James is mentioned.

“We’ve been together for 11 years and for four of them I had a brain injury. A lot of people are interested in James because, for a lot of other survivors, their support structure fails. Family and friends turn away from them, so a lot of them do like to use James as an example that it doesn’t have to be like that.

“In relationships it can be difficult to have conversations, especially if you are talking to someone who hasn’t got a great memory. They might say the same things again and again and it gets difficult for others who don’t quite know what they should or shouldn’t say. It’s really hard on so many levels.

“I know I was sometimes a nightmare and for a lot of people that is a type of pressure that they just can’t deal with and need to walk away from. The more that such relationships can be protected, the better the outcome.”

www.jumbledbrain.com