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Personal care at PA Hospital

Wednesday 10 March 2021

When David Breese suffered an acquired brain injury, he and his wife Mandy were thankful for the care and support of the staff of the PA Hospital's (PAH) Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit (BIRU).

An acquired brain injury refers to any type of brain damage that happens after birth, the resulting effects of which can be difficult for everyone involved, including family members, to cope with. Effects can range from mild to profound and can include impaired senses, cognition, physical abilities, and communication skills and as well altered behaviour and personality.

A helicopter pilot with the British Airforce before moving to Australia and flying with the Australian Army for two years, David was working in a civilian role with the Australian Airforce in April when he started suffering a persistent and debilitating headache. The headache got so bad David initially visited his GP surgery and after seeing two doctors was then sent straight to the nearest hospital emergency department.

After being diagnosed with a brain bleed at the Mater, David and Mandy were given a choice, to remain there or transfer to the PA Hospital, they decided to have Dave transferred to the PA knowing he would receive the best care possible.

"I guess as a result of his military service, Dave suffered with sinus issues and also sometimes had some shoulder and back pain which could lead to headaches, so we're used to this, but this time it was different lasting for about a week," Mandy said.

"And at that point, he also had a couple of really sharp pains going from his shoulder into his eye socket.

"48 hours after seeing his previous GP and in a subsequent visit to another doctor he was sent to emergency at the Mater where the brain bleed was first recognised.

"Having had scans at the Mater, Dave had a choice whether to stay there at Mater or come up to the PA, and we chose to move across to PA, which I think was definitely the right decision from speaking to a lot of people since his admission. "We were told that the care there and the specialists that are there meant it was the right place for Dave to be able to get the help he needed."

David would spend more than three and half months in the care of the PAH, including time under the care of the nurses and doctors in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

"After seeing the scans, they took him into surgery to have a look and to try and address the issues. Because they could see there was a complex aneurism going in through the artery in the leg wasn't possible and there was a decision to stabilize things and wait to carry out surgery to address that on Good Friday.

"In the meantime, Dave had a second bleed, so they did emergency brain surgery prior to that Good Friday. Dave seemed to recover from that and then had a third bleed, he actually had a brain stem bleed, and that was the one that created the most challenges and he ended up on breathing machines and things like that.

"He's had quite an up and down journey, bounced in and out of ICU after each one of those operations or bleeds, and eventually moved across to BIRU."

Mandy and David said one of the aspects of David's care they appreciated the most was the fact staff took the time to connect with David on a deeper level than just nurse and patient.

"A lot of the staff in there treated Dave as a person, not just a number. They did make the effort to talk to him and get to know him" Mandy said.

"They know what the needs of the patients are that they're working with and they try really hard to provide those services and that support with the resources that they have."

Dave with his son Luke, wife Mandy and dog Charlie

"All the nurses were very good; they exceeded my expectations anyway. I was very pleased with how I was looked after," David said." There was one male nurse, Alvin, he was very good with me, and all the ladies in the unit were very kind as well."

Mandy said as David continues to rehabilitate, they would like to see more awareness raised of acquired brain injury and its impacts, as well as more medical research undertaken, with Mandy adding she knows David will be an advocate himself in future years.

"I'm pretty sure that as Dave gets better, I'm sure he'll be that sort of advocate because he certainly has done that when he had PTSD," Mandy said.

"He's helped a lot of people that have also been suffering from that and helped them to understand that he's been through it and he understands where they are at and tries to help them through it."

Find out more information on acquired brain injuries here.

Donate to support the work of staff at the PA Hospital's Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit here.