Mat has been an outstanding employee of Equiptest for 17 years. In that time he has worked all over the UK as one of our PAT testing engineers, helping ensure businesses have safe equipment. In October 2021 his life changed dramatically after a violent attack at his home. The way he has not only survived this event, but moved forward with his life in an amazingly positive way, is a lesson for us all.
The attack and injuries
During the attack Mat was hit repeatedly on the head with various solid objects and thrown down 16 concrete steps. When the ambulance arrived, he needed to be resuscitated. He was placed in an induced coma for 3 ½ weeks and his injuries included a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury. After he woke up, he was in a confused state and found it hard to communicate, he could hardly talk or understand the conversations around him. Several operations were required on his fractured skull but he still had issues with his balance and black outs. A shunt was inserted to help alleviate these problems.
Time in hospital during COVID
Obviously, these injuries were extensive and Mat spent 4 months in hospital recovering. This extended time in hospital would be hard for anyone but this was at the height of the COVID pandemic. Mat could only see his dad for 1 hour a day, the rest of the time he was by himself in his hospital room, unable to go out. To not only go through such a traumatic experience, but then be isolated from your friends and family was an added hurdle for Mat to deal with.
After being discharged from hospital Mat began rehabilitation at the Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre.
The brain injury had left Mat with cognitive issues that affected his thought processes and coordination. But the injury had also damaged his social confidence. Now he found it harder to find the words in a conversation or fully understand what someone was saying to him. Conversations that had once felt normal and easy were now anxiety inducing and difficult. Mat had to relearn the art of conversation and overcome the fear that he wouldn’t know what to say.
The rehab facility was a lifeline. Mat’s goal was to learn how to socialise again, understand how to cope with the anxiety that came with his injuries and recover enough to go back to work.
It would have been easy for Mat to just give up or enter into the rehab therapies on offer in a half-hearted way. But he didn’t do this. He threw himself into the process, forcing himself to talk to others during gardening and art classes and actively participating in group therapy sessions.
Learning about how his injuries affect his brain function helped Mat better understand how his mind works post injury. His brain now sends signals in a different way and just having that knowledge helped Mat start to recover.
Occupational therapy helped him regain vital hand, eye co ordination skills and helped him relearn how to follow instructions.
Mat spent nearly a year attending the centre and he feels that this therapy gave him his life back. He will never be 100% the same as he was before the attack but with a greater understanding of his injuries and the chance to talk through his mental health barriers he could begin to live his life again.
Support from his family
Recovery from the attack has been a long process and he couldn’t have got through it without the support of his family. They have been with him every step of the way.
Support from Equiptest
Mat has always enjoyed his job and getting back to work was a huge priority for him. Many of the people attending the rehabilitation centre had concerns about their jobs or had already been let go by their employer. The team at Equiptest were not going to let that happen to Mat. Darren, the Director of the company, called Mat every week to find out how he was doing. He provided support and advice and made sure he understood what Mat was going through. He went out of his way to help, not only Mat, but his family as well. Most importantly, Equiptest gave Mat the space and time to recover, without the pressure of worrying that his job would be lost. The priority was getting better.
The team at Equiptest knew that Mat would want to get back to work. All the employees offered their support and he started going into the office to become part of the business again and gradually begin the process of getting back to work. The company have understood what Mat can and can’t do right now. He is staying more local at the moment and working with another engineer at all times so there is someone to support him. Because Mat’s brain has been damaged he suffers more with mental fatigue which affects his energy levels. He has had to adapt his day so it is shorter and less strenuous.
Good communication has been key. Darren and the team have taken the time to understand the issues Mat faces and have adapted accordingly. Mat can be honest with Darren about how he is feeling which means he is better able to look after his physical and mental health. This has made Mat’s recovery and return to work a lot easier.
Moving forward with a positive attitude
For someone who has been through so much what strikes you about Mat when you talk to him is how positive he is. This shows his immense strength of character. He has worked hard at his recovery, not shying away from being vulnerable in social situations and changing his diet to help his body recover and thrive.
It would have been easy to let everything get on top of him and retreat into himself but Mat is incredibly open and honest about what he has been through and how it has affected him. After going through so much he views life differently. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff anymore and even goes so far as to say, in some ways, he is glad to have gone through this experience. He is taking the positives from the situation and refusing to dwell on the negatives. Something we could all be better at. He feels that this is just a bump in the road and he will get back on track again. He just feels lucky to be alive and has a greater appreciation for his life and the people close to him. He is stronger mentally, physically and emotionally because of what he has been through.
Because he has been helped by so many people Mat wants to do the same for others. He has gone back to talk to people at the Rehab centre who are struggling to get back to work. By being an example of someone who has achieved that aim he wants to help and inspire other people. Lots of people now come for him for advice about mental health and even diet tips!
“You never know what is going to happen”
I’m not sure we could all come through the experience that Mat has with such a positive attitude and willingness to help others. But hopefully we can all learn something from him. Everyone needs the help and support of others, whether that is therapists, family or workmates, when life throws us a curveball. But we also need to be open and honest with ourselves and others about how we are feeling and work hard to recover, as Mat has done. Mat’s story is a journey of hardship and discovery and hopefully it will help others appreciate their lives a little bit more.