St Albans dad joins brain injury support fight

Nicki Freeman and her dad Peter at St James's Palace, where she received her Gold Duke of Edinburgh

Nicki Freeman and her dad Peter at St James's Palace, where she received her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. - Credit: Photo supplied

A ST Albans man whose daughter successfully underwent extensive rehabilitation after being severely injured in a car crash features in a YouTube video highlighting the need for improved services for those sustaining a brain injury.

Peter Freeman appears on the clip created for the United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF) where he speaks about his daughter Nicki spending a year in rehabilitation learning to swallow, speak and walk.

Nicki was just 18 when the Ford Fiesta she was driving during heavy rain to a school prom in May 2010 collided with a tree.

She cannot recall the incident as, along with breaking a lot of bones, she sustained a head injury and was in a coma.

Over one million people live in the United Kingdom with the effects of acquired brain injury (ABI), a non-degenerative injury to the brain occurring since birth, such as those caused by strokes, assaults, falls, tumours or infectious diseases.

People with ABI need acute and early access to specialist rehabilitation but such services vary considerably around the UK, which has a detrimental impact on how well patients recover.

The UKABIF film explains the injury and outlines the charity’s demands on a local and national level as part of its campaign to force change.

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Professor Michael Barnes, chair of the organisation, said that a national audit of rehabilitation services should be carried out, and the collection and reporting of accurate data on newly acquired brain injuries made compulsory by all providers along the patient journey from acute to community services.

Acute and early access to local, specialist rehabilitation is essential to aid recovery.

Peter said people who suffered a head injury did not always receive immediate specialist care.

Nicki had neurological rehabilitation services at Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for disabled people, a charity which helps people gain new skills and increase their independence.

Peter added: “We have been incredibly fortunate. Without the rehabilitation Nicky wouldn’t have done so well.”

Proof of her dramatic turnaround has come in the form of crossing the finish line at the St Albans Half Marathon in 2011 and, more recently, receiving a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Nicki is currently doing work experience and studying at National Star College, a specialist college for the disabled, in Gloucestershire.

To see the film, go to