I remember the first day I met Mr Brislin. It was a sunny day in January, and I had been briefed in advance by my colleague about Mr Brislin and the severity of his condition. He had sustained a significant head injury on 27 December 2019 when he fell through his ceiling while installing a feed for Netflix in the roof of his home.

Mr Brislin was rushed to Milpark Hospital Academic Trauma Centre on the same day, where *Professor K. Boffard attended to him. A CT scan revealed that he had a small brain bleed and he was admitted to the Trauma ICU. Although he appeared stable initially, two days later he was noted to be more disorientated a repeat CT scan showed that the bleed was enlarging and increasing the pressure on his brain inside his skull. Surgery was then performed to remove the clot, and he required a period of ventilation postoperatively, as he remained confused and extremely restless.   

By 13 January 2020, Mr Brislin was stable enough to be transferred to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his journey to recovery. On arrival at our facility, Mr Brislin still had a nasogastric tube in to assist him with feeding, and he was on supplemental oxygen. He was restless and disorientated and his right hand and arm were weak. When he spoke, his words were mumbled, and we could not understand him. It was clear to me at that stage that he required intensive rehabilitation if we were to give him the best chances at recovery.

As the days went on, Mr Brislin started recovering and regaining function. It became apparent that he was a polite, friendly and hard-working individual determined to give his best.

Mr Brislin was discharged from Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital about a month after he arrived. He was fully independent and functional upon discharge.

I recently followed up with Mr Brislin and asked him about his experience at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital: “The care I received at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital was absolutely fantastic and I shall remain forever grateful to the entire staff. The experience went far beyond mere high standards, but the absolute dedication and special spirit of staff will remain with me forever (sic).” When asked about the hardest part of recovery, this is what he said: “My recovery was not hard as every day held a new positive including wonderful therapy experiences, becoming wheelchair free, being weaned of initial medications, making new friends.”

Mr Brislin has made a full recovery, and he plans to return to work as a senior tax consultant at SARS very soon. He has the following advice for anyone who suffers a brain injury: “You are in safe hands. Take each day as it comes. We all have so much to be grateful for and each new experience – whether large or small – enhance our lives.”

Prof. Boffard was delighted to hear about Mr Brislin’s recovery, noting that a favourable outcome is possible irrespective of the age of a patient if meticulous care and expertise is applied.

“Older people take longer to get better, but if pathology and physiology are reversed earlier through careful observation, not underestimating the severity and if the threshold is quite low if intervention is required, then patients do well. A compliment also to his wife, who has been really supportive both of her husband, but to the staff.” *Prof. Ken Boffard is the Trauma Director and Academic Head at Milpark Hospital Academic Trauma Centre and an Emeritus Professor and previous Head of the Department of Surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.