A mum has said that her son is a completely different boy after recovering from a brain injury.
Janet McCullough, from Northern Ireland, described how her son Eric had developed a kidney infection which later led to encephalitis – a sometimes life-threatening form of swelling in the brain.
It was understandably a very frightening time for the family, who were unsure about the likely effects of the dramatic deterioration in the eight-year-old’s condition.
“He had been on antibiotics but his body turned on itself and targeted the brain,” said Janet. “His head was sore and he was sensitive to light and was sick.
“He was hospitalised in the Causeway Hospital, then the Royal Victoria Hospital, but when he emerged he was a different wee boy due to the infection.”
A year on from Eric’s fight, his mother has touched on the lasting impact that a brain injury can have on someone.
Today Eric becomes easily tired, both physically and mentally, and has no concept of time. He has also developed learning difficulties.
“From being a bright wee boy he is now dyslexic and needs a lot of help – he finds it hard to concentrate,” she said. “But he’s still my boy – he’s great.”
Acquired brain injuries have become more common as medical advances allow patients to survive where previously they would have died.
Common causes include a head trauma, an infection or health problems ranging from strokes to brain tumours. Perhaps surprisingly, acquired brain injuries peak in early childhood (up to the age of four) and among 15 to 29-year-olds. Males are slightly more likely to develop a brain injury than females.
Fiona McCabe, from the charity Brain Injury Matters, said her organisation was helping a growing number of families. She acknowledged that part of the challenge was determining exactly how many children had developed brain injuries so resources could be allocated accordingly.