Disbelief, denial and misdiagnosis: Suffolk mum’s story of life changing brain injury
- Credit: Archant
Anna Legget’s life was changed forever three years ago when she suffered a mild brain trauma in a car crash – now she has bravely shared her story discussing the long and difficult route to recovery.
Anna Leggett, from Waldringfield, was sitting in traffic on the A137 outside Ipswich on a rainy November evening when a 4x4 Land Rover slammed into the back of her car, causing her head to slam backwards and forwards into her headrest.
After weeks of numerous visits to the GP and optician she was still struggling with symptoms of memory loss, dizziness, chronic fatigue and high anxiety.
Anna realised her concussion was not as simple as it had seemed and attempted to find some answers.
She recalled: “The hardest and most frustrating thing was that sometimes the medical professionals didn’t even seem to believe that I had a mild brain injury and dismissed my symptoms as psychosomatic – it was all in my head.
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“I was variously told that I had depression, adjustment disorder and functional symptoms.”
Although the mother of three received a lot of support from family and friends, from some she was met with a mixture of disbelief, denial and unrealistic expectations from those who struggled to understand the subtle difficulties the injury had brought on.
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Caring and home educating three children was difficult in the wake of the accident and she often struggled with basic tasks.
“I often couldn’t read bedtime stories to my children because the words would jump around on the page and I was too tired,” Anna said.
“I couldn’t move as well as I could previously, I felt like I had aged about forty years over night – there were times I would sit in a chair and then just couldn’t get back out again.”
The 48-year-old believes she has Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS), though an official diagnosis is hard to come by due to the diverse understanding within the medical community, and has been diagnosed with a mild brain injury and a diffuse axonal injury.
The condition is effectively a permanent concussion – including symptoms of depression, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, headaches, noise and light sensitivity, blurry vision – which can last for weeks, months, years or forever in a small percentage of cases.
One of the difficulties faced by people with PCS is that very few of the symptoms are physically visible, which has led to some people being dismissed or misdiagnosed by several different doctors throughout the course of their recovery.
Many patients face a long wait as it can take months to be referred to a neurologist or chronic pain specialist through the NHS and private treatment isn’t always an option.
Luckily, Anna threw herself into researching her condition and eventually found help to get the right treatment.
“It may be the case, as it was for me, that your GP or even the neurologist at your local hospital do not have specialist knowledge of mild traumatic brain injury.
“However, be persistent and be proactive about your health and healing, and keep pushing and searching for answers and help.”
The brave mum eventually found Headway, a brain injury charity with a branch in Ipswich, who have online resources with lists of neurologists and neuropsychologists and also a list of solicitors who deal with brain injury cases.
CFG Law are a Cheshire based firm who specialise in serious and catastrophic injury claims and provided Anna with the legal support she needed following her accident.
Now three years on, she still suffers from heightened anxiety, gaps in her memory and difficulty forming words, which is exacerbated by fatigue.
However, she has found methods over the years of coping with her symptoms to lead a ‘normal’ life again.
Anna admitted: “Before my accident I assumed I would know if someone had one from the way they moved or spoke.
“When people think brain injury they think it affects your speech or it would be obvious, but you can have a brain injury and function highly.”
“Although the injury may not show up on scans and is often invisible, the symptoms that the person experiences and the impact on their life can often be disabling and devastating.”
Now, she is using a blog to spread a powerful message to those with mild brain injuries.
She added: “I really felt helpless for a long time and while my story isn’t particularly exciting, I hope it can help others and it’s the right thing to do by sharing it.”