Speaking out on life after a brain injury

Danielle Stoton was seriously injured in Armthorpe, Doncaster, in 2014
Danielle Stoton was seriously injured in Armthorpe, Doncaster, in 2014

The mother of a young woman who was once refused service in a Doncaster pub because bar staff mistook her brain injury for being drunk is speaking out about life after sustaining a brain injury.

Michelle Stoton hopes to educate the public on living with the condition as part of Action For Brain Injury Week.

Her daughter Danielle, 21, suffered life-changing injuries in a hit-and-run in Armthorpe, Doncaster, in August 2014.

Michelle, 43, instructed expert serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help Danielle access specialist care and rehabilitation to help aid her recovery and support her as she came to terms with her injury.

Her legal team also supported her throughout the investigation into the crash, and in May 2015 they saw the driver responsible for her injuries jailed for eight months and given a two-year driving ban.

But 16 months after the near-fatal incident, when Michelle and Danielle met a friend who had also been seriously injured in a crash, for a drink, the friends were refused service for being too drunk. This was despite showing staff a card Danielle carries showing she is a brain injury survivor.

Bar staff had mistaken the pair’s speech problems as a result of their injuries as having had too much to drink.

Michelle now hopes to use Action for Brain Injury Week to help educate people about the effects of brain injury and how it can affect people in every aspect of their everyday life.

She said: “Suffering a brain injury can result in wide ranging physical and psychological problems, including slurring of speech, unsteadiness on your feet and impulsive reactions."

“When the bar staff refused to serve Danielle, her frustration and short temper – a result of the trauma to her brain - made the situation worse, and although I stepped in to explain and present Danielle’s Brain Injury ID card, we were still asked to leave.

"It was really upsetting when your daughter is trying to get back on track and get on with everyday things people take for granted.”

Michelle received overwhelming support when she shared the experience on Facebook, with more than 500 messages and 3,300 shares.

This year’s annual Action for Brain Injury campaign week, which is this week and organised by Headway, is based around the theme of life after brain injury and how such injuries have a lasting impact on not only survivors but also their families and carers.

As part of its work Headway has established ‘a new me’, a platform for people to share experiences which has been created to both challenge misconceptions about brain injury and also highlight the value that the right support can provide.

Michelle added: “There are lots of things that have changed in Danielle’s life as a result of her injury, but we were not really prepared for a misunderstanding like the one in the pub, so I think it’s good to share the story, not out of any sense of ongoing bad feeling, but just to raise some awareness of the fact that life doesn’t go back to normal after you’re discharged from hospital.

"Things are different. Danielle is different. But she is not going to let it hold her back and for that I am immensely proud of her.”