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Dale's story

Take everyday as it comes

My name is Dale Henley.

I have an amazing partner, Andrea, an 8 year old son, Ezra, as well as my partners son Isaiah, who is 16 years old.

I enjoy racing motocross, as well as supporting Ezra in his motocross. I also enjoy downhill mountain biking with Isaiah at the Christchurch Adventure Park and Victoria Park. We used to go two to three times a week. I have also spent a bit of time helping at the North Canterbury dirt riders club with training days helping the new generation of Motocross riders.

I work as a motorcycle mechanic at Norjo motorcycles. I also spend a lot of time at home in the garage working on project bikes and motor bikes.

My accident

It was a Tuesday night the 5th of November 2019 when my partner drove Isaiah and I to Victoria Park for a ride on our downhill mountain bikes. I dropped in and went over the 15 foot jump at the top, but went over the handlebars head first into the ground and knocked myself out.

An ambulance was called, as well as Andrea, who was on her way to the bottom of the hill to meet us. She made it back before the ambulance and sat with me and kept Isaiah informed to make sure he was ok. The ambulance arrived 12 to 15 minutes later and they assessed me. A helicopter was called as I was in a critical condition and I was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital with a GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) of six.

On arrival to the hospital, I was put into an induced coma for a CT scan to see if there was any major brain damage, spinal or neck injury. They found I had fracture in my T4 -T7. I spent three nights and three days in ICU before being moved to Ward 28, (the Neuroscience ward) where I spent four or five nights. While in Ward 28, they confirmed I had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). While there, I had to answer questions and cards to measure the length of post traumatic amnesia, which I struggled to do. I was weak on my left side and my balance wasn’t good. I needed assistance with walking. I was sent for an MRI before I was moved to Laura Fergusson Trust where I started my recovery. When I moved to Laura Fergusson I was still working on the cards and questions until I could get them right. It was hard to remember them.

My rehab journey

My rehab consisted of my psychologist, speech-language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and a nurse, all working together, and a Doctor as needed. When I was in the Laura Ferguson Trust brain injury rehabilitation unit, my rehab team worked together to come up with a schedule that best fit my needs for recovery. Between my rehab appointments, some of the staff would take me for walks or just talk.

My physio worked to help me regain my strength and balance, as well as working with me to rehab my injuries with stretches and exercise.

My psychologist worked with me on my memory. We did a bunch of tasks that were memory based as well as problem solving tasks. She worked with how I was feeling and if there was anything that I was unsure about. She also worked with my family to see if there was anything they could help with.

My occupational therapist worked on day-to-day living, like the basics of having a timetable and sticking to a routine, doing basic jobs like washing and hanging it out and bringing it in, as well as doing dishes and household tasks. I also got to help put their Christmas tree up.

My speech-language therapist worked with me on my speech and talking at a speed everyone could understand. I was talking too fast and was muddling words up. We worked hard on this so I could string sentences together as I was having a lot of trouble remembering certain words and names of things.

The most important thing was having people there to support me - mostly my fiancé Andrea, as well a couple of good friends to help me too. The team at Laura Fergusson Trust were there every minute of the day. They helped with everything and they gave me the support I needed.

I was resting and sleeping most of the time. To aid my recovery the staff would come to my room to do my rehab. The other staff at Laura Ferguson were fantastic, as when I was down in the dumps they would come and take me for walks and talk with me. They made my rehab so much better than it could have been. It was extremely hard being away from home and family but Laura Fergusson was the best place I could have been to recover from my head injury.

The staff were amazing and I wouldn't have made all the progress I've made without them. Since leaving the rehab unit, the community brain injury rehab team at Laura Fergusson Trust have taken over my care. They come to see me weekly which has been good as they picked up right from the team at the unit.

Six-months post injury

Six months post injury, I have worked hard both mentally and physically. I'm back at work doing three half days a week. I'm enjoying being back at work as I can be hands on and rebuilding bikes, which is a passion of mine.

My fatigue is getting better every day and so is my memory. Every day is starting to feel more normal. I am also lot more confident on my feet with walking and going up and down stairs at home. I have been able to enjoy getting back into a few things I enjoy doing. I have been to the New Zealand Superbikes, the speedway and out for family meals to restaurants, as well as catching up with friends.

I have been going for weekly rides with my physio on my mountain bike through Bottle Lake forest before COVID-19 lockdown, as well as a few road rides. While riding with my physio, I have been able to get enough confidence back to ride my downhill bike up at Victoria Park. I am a lot more aware of the consequences so my wheels stay planted on the ground and I ride the nice flowing trails. This was the best feeling since my crash! This also means I have been able to take my son out riding again as one of the things we do together, and I have enough confidence to take him on my own.

My advice would be to take every day as it comes. You will have good days and bad days - don’t beat yourself up over it, it can make it worse.

It can be hard to be away from your family and friends but it’s the best place to recover. I hated being away from my partner and son, however, I was where I needed to be as I had the support of the team at Laura Fergusson which made it easier for me.

I watched a movie The Crash Reel while at Laura Fergusson Brain Injury Trust. This had a positive impact on me so if you have a chance, it’s worth a watch. The website has information and ideas on loving your brain.