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BBC Panorama Features RHN Patients



In 2010, BBC Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh approached the RHN to make a programme which would follow brain injured patients with disorders of consciousness. This would cover the period of their assessment and rehabilitation at the RHN and then their involvement in the ground-breaking research study, based at Addenbrook’s Hospital in Cambridge, which uses fMRI brain scanning to further assess consciousness.
 
Patients with disorders of consciousness are an historically under-reported group due to the difficulties of gaining consent. After consideration of the ethical and practical issues, we felt that the programme presented an opportunity to raise public understanding of the issues faced by patients with disorders of consciousness and their families.
 
The programme aired on BBC1 on 13 November 2012 - click here to view again.

The following patients from the RHN feature in the programme:
Stewart Newman was involved in a road traffic accident in 2007, aged just 26. After weeks in a coma in an acute ward, his parents, Lynne and Trevor were told that he was probably not going to improve. Six months after the accident, Stewart’s Primary Care Trust recommended the RHN and on his first day, Stewart’s Mum Lynne spoke to a doctor: “I learnt more about the effects of Stewart’s accident in that first 10 to 15 minutes than I did in the previous six months on the acute ward.”
 
At the RHN, the whole team worked with Stewart who was gradually able
to use his right hand to hold a pen and to play noughts and crosses. A further break through was Christmas 2008 – Stewart knew that it was Christmas and opened his presents on his own. 18 months on, Stewart was communicating with a spelling chart, sign language and mouthing words.  Then at last, his sense of humour started to shine through.  After four years at the RHN, Stewart is now at home and doing well.
Alex Seaman was just 19 when, on a night out with friends, he stepped off a moving bus. He misjudged his landing and fell, hitting his head on a car. Although his family & friends had high hopes, he has had a difficult journey so far and suffered illness set-backs which have complicated his recovery.
 
An RHN SMART assessment indicated that Alex had a disorder of consciousness. The Cambridge fMRI scans showed that he could understand language and act upon instruction. He was also seen to recognise photographs of faces.  
Michael Taylor was 19 years old when he had a car accident. The Smart assessment performed at the RHN recorded a diagnosis of vegetative state, which was confirmed by the Cambridge fMRI scan. He continues to receive 24 hour care at All Hallows, Lowestoft.
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