In May 2007, Brooke Trotter was walking home from a night out with friends from university when he was the victim of a hit-and-run with devastating consequences.
“In just two or three seconds my life changed forever,” recalls Brooke.
The then 24-year old was crossing the road in Manchester where he was at university at around 2am, when a speeding car, travelling at around 50mph, headed towards him. Brooke stepped on to the pavement in time but the driver of the car lost control of the vehicle and it mounted the pavement.
The car crashed into Brooke with such force that his head went through the windscreen – leaving him with a fractured skull and life-threatening brain haemorrhage, as well as fractured cheek, nose, palate as well as being covered in cuts and bruises.
He was rushed to hospital and police contacted his mum back in Scarborough at 4am, saying she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
“One thing stuck with her,” says Brooke. “She asked if I’d still be alive when she got there and the policewoman said ‘I can’t promise you that’.”
Against all the odds, and thanks to the excellent treatment he received, Brooke woke from a coma after 16 days and returned home five months later.
However, the injury has had lasting effects. Chronic fatigue, lack of concentration and memory loss have proven a challenge for Brooke and as a result, he was unable to return to university to continue his studies in electrical engineering. Instead, he decided to use his experiences to raise awareness of brain injury and the importance of being safe and careful on the roads.
“I remember in the early days of my recovery reading something that said ‘Do something every day that challenges you’ and I knew public speaking would do just that.”
Brooke delivered his first speech to fellow survivors at Headway East Coast, a local brain injury charity.
“I first heard about Headway through my occupational therapist at the time. There isn’t much awareness about brain injury, especially in the remote areas of Scarborough, so it was a huge deal when the charity was set up.
“I went along to one of the first ever meetings to talk about my experiences and was a keen member of the group for many years. Headway gave me a place to belong. In the early days I felt very isolated and down, but Headway gave me the chance to meet and talk to people who understand what it’s like to live with a brain injury.”
Since then, Brooke has gone on to deliver speeches across the country to hospitals, schools and the emergency services.
He has also worked with undergraduate law students, giving talks about his experiences of a personal injury case and what he thinks makes a good solicitor.
“I love doing what I do. One of the positives to come out of the accident is that I can now help to educate others through sharing my story. I think it makes others realise just how lucky they are.”
But his public speaking journey hasn’t been without its challenges. “Because I have difficulties remembering things after my accident, I have to take notes and prompts with me when I’m speaking,” says Brooke. “I don’t want to be one of those people reading word for word from a script, but if I don’t take some form of aid with me I’ll lose my train of thought or go on a tangent and start rambling about all sorts.”
He also says although his mates are still his mates he has very little in common with them now. “I find socialising very difficult and so I avoid it,” he says.
“When I first came round I needed to sleep all the time and I still get tired. I am in my 30s but feel like I have the body of an old man.”
Although it is 12 years ago Brooke still has problems but he is determined to overcome them to raise awareness of head injuries and the dangers of speeding.
Brooke’s work is now being recognised at an annual awards luncheon as one of just three finalists in the UK in the running for the title of Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year.
The award, which is sponsored by Slater & Gordon Lawyers, will be presented at the ceremony organised by Headway – the brain injury association, on December 6 at the InterContinental London Park Lane, Mayfair.
“It’s a big honour to be recognised for an annual award,” says Brooke who has moved back to Manchester. “When I started my public speaking journey it was to help other survivors, not for the recognition so it means a lot. It’s a huge surprise – I really didn’t expect it,”
It was Brooke’s determination to help others following his own struggles that earned him his nomination as Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year.
Lesley Allen, emergencies co-ordinator at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, nominated Brooke for the award after he joined the team’s collaborative project, Safe Drive Stay Alive. “Brooke’s bravery and determination inspired me from the first time I met him.
“What impressed me even more was his selflessness to turn his experiences into positive action for the benefit of other young people,” says Lesley.
“He gives our project his time and energy on a voluntary basis, and the whole team wanted to nominate him for this award in recognition of his amazing contributions to Safe Drive Stay Alive. Brooke truly is an inspiration to the whole team!”
Awards for Carer and Volunteer of the Year will also be presented, alongside the Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award.
To read Brooke’s blog visit www.braininjurybrooke.co.uk