Sam Jevon, A Different Person
Several years ago, Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Alex Pink experienced a life-changing head injury and, in the second of two stories published with Headway East London, he collaborates with fellow-survivor Sam Jevon to present another personal testimony of discovery and recovery.
“The accident has done me a favour in a lot of ways”
“All I remember is that I was going shopping at the time. I never got to go shopping. It happened in 2006. In June this year, it will be ten years ago. My daughter was seventeen and my son was fifteen.
I was a passenger in a car, I was sitting next to the driver and I was not wearing a seat belt. As it was summer, the window was open. When the accident happened, the car rolled over and I came out of the window. I got the worst injuries, the driver got a broken shoulder. Apparently, the person who went into the back of us had only been driving for a week.
I was taken to the Royal Free Hospital. I was in a coma for a couple of months. I had a bolt coming out of my head. Because of the pressure, they had to take a bit of my skull out. I have a titanium plate there now. It is a big plate – it covers quite a big area of my head. After my injury, my dad was talking to my doctor about whether I would make it. The doctor said ‘If anyone will, she will.’ I have always been determined.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a policewoman but I was no good. You needed higher maths and I was not very good at numbers. I enjoyed school but I had a lot of different maths teachers. I started to play darts when I was about fifteen. That improved my maths. I used to be a good darts player, I used to beat the men.
When I was about eighteen, I started drinking as well. I used to drink a lot. It was around then I met my husband. I married at twenty and had my daughter, Jessica, when I was nearly twenty-one – the same age as when my mother had me. I was twenty-three when I had my son, Spencer. He has Asperger’s and he was a nightmare when he was little, bringing him up was the biggest challenge in my life.
I had to do it on my own. Their dad was useless. He left when Spencer was six months old because he could not handle him. He never understood my son because he is different. He should be proud of Spencer but he is not. When I was out with Spencer, people would stare. I said, ‘What are you looking at?’ I never slept for four years because Spencer could not sleep at night – because of his eyes, I think. He has night blindness, the condition is called retinitis pigmentosa. My sister says I must have had a lot of patience. My parents have been very good, my mum used to look after my children so I could go out.
I have lived in Enfield my whole life. I’ll be forty-seven next spring. My parents are separated but friendly, my mum lives with my sister who is nine years younger than me and my dad lives twenty minutes away from me. I have been divorced for twenty-one years now – a long time. I do not want a relationship. Men are such hard work.
The accident has done me a favour in a lot of ways because, before, the doctor told me my liver was dodgy and I do not drink at all now. I was very angry and short-tempered, I was awful. A lot of people at the pub say that I was a nightmare. I was angry about a lot of things – but now, the only thing that could upset me is if anything happened to anyone in my family. My personality has changed. I am mellow now. I am calm.
I definitely think some things have improved since the injury. I could help my children out financially when they were at university because of the compensation case. I had a solicitor and a case manager who dealt with a lot of things. My living situation has improved. Where I live now, I have my own garden. I live in an adapted bungalow in quite a nice area and I have good neighbours. From my new place, I can see the tower block I used to live in when I was young.
I would not describe myself as a disabled person at all. I would describe myself as different – in the way I look and the way I walk. I walk with a bit of a limp. My voice is different, and my eyes – one is bigger than the other. Those are about the only differences. Physically, I look the same. Some people think I had a stroke, because of the way I walk. I do not mind telling people. How I was in the car, I was not wearing a seatbelt and it rolled over and that I came out the window.
The injury has never made me feel depressed. I was depressed quite a lot before my injury because of the way I was living, because I had to bring my children up on my own and I had to rely on my parents. I tried to take an overdose three times. I did not take a lot because I thought ‘I have children to look after.’ I went to my doctor and he put me on anti-depressants. This was many years before the injury. I had to go and talk to someone. It helped having someone to talk to, I felt better. I was still taking anti-depressants when I was in the accident.
I think the accident has affected my family the worst because I am not the same person I used to be. I used to help them out with filling forms in and everything. I cannot do that now. And my sister, because she is nine years younger than me, I was like a mum to her. That has definitely changed. Every time she had a problem, she could phone up and talk to me. She cannot now. I cannot give advice the way I used to. Before the accident, I used to say what I felt but I cannot say much now.
I only have one friend from before. All the other friends disappeared. That is how it is after an injury – you find out who your friends are. I have my support worker, Janet. She is my best friend now. She helps out with problem-solving. That is my main difficulty. For example, reminding me to check the dates on food if it tastes funny. If I am stuck with something, she will say, ‘Why don’t you try doing it this way?’
Over the years since the accident, I have got my confidence back. I go out a lot. I just speak to people – in the shop and in the pub where I go. I do not drink any more but I still have a good time. I like to see everyone else making fools of themselves. I am still in a darts team. After the accident I used to throw darts on the floor because of my balance, but now I can get them in the board.
Some things are coming back again. I can do quite a lot for myself. I like ironing. I can put the washing in. I can do cooking. I progress every year. I would like to be able to do more for myself – just more and better.”
Photographs copyright © Alex Pink
You may also like to read about