At the forefront of brain injury rehabilitation: Enabling life beyond injury or stroke
A brain injury can affect a person’s life in many different ways and in a lot of cases lives can change in the long term. Julie O’Brien has put herself in the forefront of helping those who acquire a brain injury regain their lives for nearly 20 years.
Julie works as the Clinical Lead at Livability Icanho – a specialist brain rehabilitation centre in Suffolk. With a background in occupational therapy Julie leads and advises a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, clinical psychologists, social worker and rehabilitation assistants – all of whom are specialists in their own right.
Alongside this, Julie is the first contact for people in hospital who have just suffered a brain injury or stroke. The initial contact can be crucial in ensuring their patients are given the right treatment, at which Julie is proficient. She regularly offers advice to the patients’ families and even the hospital staff on the different options that are available after a brain injury or stroke.
A brain injury or stroke can affect different aspects of a person’s life. Rehabilitation involves looking at the whole person – physical, psychological, social, and even their spiritual aspect of life – to get them back on their feet and into the community.
“We had a young woman who suffered a stroke which effected the right side of her brain”, remembers Icanho Manager Diane Robinson. “She was unable to walk and had difficulty thinking or feeling on the left side of her body.”
“Julie visited her in the hospital and she came to work with us at Livability Icanho for twelve months. By the time she was discharged the woman was independently walking, living independently and supporting her children.”
Every brain injury and stroke is different and liaising with all parties involved is a vital part of Julie’s role. She has a unique blend of empathy, clinical knowledge and experience which is ideal for leading a team with a variety of expertise. Julie has the ability to motivate others, an important skill to have when a task seems daunting.
“You never stop learning about brain injury and I am always humbled by the individuals and their families and the strength that they have following what are often devastating and life changing brain injuries”, says Julie.
“I have worked for the charity for nearly 20 years now and feel privileged to have been involved in the rehabilitation journey of so many people and their families over the years.”
Julie also works very closely with the service manager in shaping the future of the service and has earned the respect of patients, family members, colleagues and external clinical staff during her time at Livability Icanho.
“Julie is the person who reaches into hospitals and meets people in the early stages after their trauma or stroke, helping to support and guide individuals to get the best outcome possible for them and their family” says Diane. “In this day and age that blend of empathy with clients and carers, coupled with the ability to negotiate with clinical professionals, is no mean feat.”
Julie received an award from the HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony held at Livability’s national office. Read about the event here.