Dan's return to work story

Dan Lock, 47, a commercial manager for a private hospital, had his first brain surgery for a foramen magnum decompression to treat Chiari malformation at the age of 35. Following complications, he went on to have another 6 brain surgeries over the next 5 months. 12 years later, he was taken ill again and required emergency brain surgery in June 23. He lives in Kent with his wife Elaine, and son, Owen, 3.

 “12 years ago, when I had the first operation, it didn't even cross my mind that there would be any challenges with recovery or any complications. 

"You know, I was young, fit and healthy when I went in. I was awful when I came out. I had lost 4 stone and was very weak. However, I was 100% positive because I was young and you know you're going to get better as you feel invincible at that age. 

 “That was 12 years ago and I've aged a bit since then. When I became ill last year and required emergency brain surgery to replace a failed VP shunt, I wasn’t as confident. I’m older, nowhere near as fit and have a lot more responsibilities. I was anxious that I wouldn't be able to get back to doing what I do and be able to work at the same intensity. I was worried that I would have to quit my job and take a role that isn't as pressured.

 “The fatigue is crazy and comes in waves without any warning or pattern. When the headaches get really bad, you get quite cloudy and forgetful. I have developed some coping strategies where I've always got a list, always writing in a book and making notes.

It's getting there and I am still ‘annoyingly positive’ (which is how my wife describes me). Still, I get some really bad days, but I have some great days as well.

“My job as a commercial manager is quite a pressured role. I'm dealing with contracts, the relationships with the insurance companies that use us, and also all the pricing for our self-pay clients as well and dealing with all the internal departments. 

“The way I describe it, I'm just spinning 1000 plates every day and it's finding the energy and concentration to try and keep all those plates spinning. And yes, inevitably some drop. But you have to decide which ones; which ones I can drop and which ones are a priority. 

 “But my employers are really supportive. The organisation allows me to work from home if and when needed. However, I prefer coming into the office and be in a work environment as I feel my energy levels and concentration levels are higher. I work my weekly hours in four days, I've condensed my hours so I get a Friday off to spend with my son. 

 “And now I'm driving again after having to submit my licence following brain surgery, I'm doing all my hours in the office. I want to push myself and get back to the old me.

 “My scars are now hidden beneath my hair, my mobility is just about back to normal and my vision is back to 95%. Some of the pressure I feel now is that, to look at me, I look fine but the reality is, every day is a struggle and a challenge. It may be physically, fatigue, concentration or just the anxiety of living with this and it happening again.”


The new partnership between SameYou and the Big Issue aims to help survivors cope with the often overwhelming prospective of returning to work after their brain injury. 61% of respondents to the survey said they would have benefitted from a job coach to ease their return to work.

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