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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 12:37 GMT
'My head injury spurred me to write'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Andy Nicholson
Even making a cup of tea is difficult

This month Andy Nicholson has the first of his trilogy of children's novels published - and he credits a serious head injury as the spur for his creativity.

Ten years ago Andy, 35, from Lincoln, was working as a builder in the former East Germany. He fell down an unguarded stairwell and suffered serious head injuries.

He spent a month in a coma and nine weeks in hospital.

His parents and family were told that it was likely he would not pull through.


"The impact was on concrete and a piece of my skull dislodged and lodged in my brain."

He needed emergency surgery, and a decade on he still suffers from the after effects of his accident.

Day-to-day tasks like making a cup of tea, cooking and remembering things still cause him problems.

But despite this he has discovered a talent for writing.

Everything is just a bit more difficult for me than it used to be
Andy Nicholson

"The damage was on the right hand side of the brain so this is reversed in my body and it is the left hand side of my body that has the difficulty co-ordinating.

"Nine months after the accident I suffered epilepsy and it was four to five years before that was got under control.

"After three to four years of idleness going through therapy I decided to write about my experiences.

"I sent my efforts away to a publisher - and it was accepted.

"I then wrote some children's books."

His books 'Toying With Trouble', 'Caught In A Web' and a 'Wing And A Dare' are aimed at the seven to eight-year-old age group.

They relate the tale of a child whose magic cloth helps its toys come alive.

Andy said that before his accident and for a number of years afterwards, he had never dreamt of writing.

"I say that if someone had told me 10-and-a-half-years ago that I would be writing then I would not have believed it. It was not me at all.

"In my youth and teens I was one of those people who never knew what they wanted to do and it has taken an accident to make me know that.

"I really enjoy my writing."


But he said his disabilities made writing the book very difficult.

"If I was stood in front of someone they would not know that there was anything wrong.

"But everything is just a bit more difficult for me than it used to be, because I have to concentrate very hard.

"I have to be so careful cooking, because I can go ahead and leave a gas burner on. Even making a cup of tea is so much more difficult.

"My coordination is so out that it takes me so long to type, I have to write everything down as I think of it.

"I will think of an idea at 1 am and have to get up and put it in then and there in case I forget about it."

His agent Robin Price, from Media Arts International said Andy's talents had shone through from the early stages.

"He has overcome adversity and injury to become a writer to be reckoned with. As the very first book in the 'Furry Foursomes Trilogy' began to take shape I could see that Andy was writing something very special."

Toying with Trouble
The front cover of Andy's book

Martin Wakely of the head injuries charity, Headway, agreed that Andy's literary success was an inspiration to others.

"Andy Nicholson is an inspiring example of a brain injury survivor who has made something very positive out of an event which is always life changing but rarely for the better.

"For most people who suffer severe brain injuries, the sad reality is that they have to put up with physical or cognitive impairments that interfere significantly with their quality of life and they never get back to what they previously considered to be "normal".

"Nonetheless, for the great majority, there is the potential for continuing improvement and there are countless other stories of brain injury survivors who have regained capabilities that they thought were lost through determination and hard work. "


Professor Lindsay McLellan, emeritus professor of rehab at Southampton University explained that Andy's case showed how important it is to treat each case separately.

"A head injury is very different from a stroke. Because in a stroke what has happened is a part of the brain dies so all the function is lost so all you can hope for is that another region can take on some of the function or that you can use what is left to do things another way."

He said that there could be a recovery period of about 6-12 months, but that not much happened after that time.

"With a head injury the whole brain gets a shake-up. Initially nothing seems to be working, but the actual extent of the damage is probably less than it is.

"So the recovery can progress over a much longer time.

"It does not mean you make a complete recovery, but you can improve if you keep exercising. If you are allowed to sit back and not do anything then you will stay as you are."

"In his case the right hand side of his brain was damaged and that will have an impact on his visual spatial concept, but less on his speech.

"It is interesting that he has managed to get into writing, which he probably would not have done had the other side of his head been affected."

The books will be published by First Century.

Am I still me?
16 Jan 04 |  Magazine

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