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November 18, 2012 / angelavbolton

Paul Barrett: ‘A Gap in Time’

Bird feeding, Aungier Street. Photo: Robert Bolton

Paul Barrett, who I’ve been in touch with regularly over the last year, came in to meet Robert at the NRH on Friday the 16th of November. This is his contribution to Robert’s blog, for which I am extremely grateful:

Meeting Robert yesterday was a real pleasure… I like to meet somebody much more than only to ‘meet about’ them, so to speak. To me, meeting him for the first time, Robert looks much better in person than in the old photos, (rightly fond though you are of the photos, Angela).

Meeting Robert was a real pleasure because, at once, and although I’m a stranger, one gets a real feeling and a personal sense of Robert. With many thought-asides — those are, aside from having some background facts about his situation, aside from background in brain injury experiences of my own and other people’s, and aside from being introduced to Robert by Angela — Robert himself was at the centre of the meeting ‘experience’, of course. While I myself am at core a sceptical, heathen-minded, cold fish-type, nevertheless I’d choose Robert as evidently having an interesting presence and even an aura.

Robert does not speak, whether ‘now’ or ‘yet”‘or ‘continuingly’ being not at all predictable, but as far as I could honestly tell, Robert seemed to show directed attentional receptiveness to me, possibly as an unaccustomed talk source and face. Robert’s possible or seeming attention went in cycles of energy which are very obviously extremely weak in energy — flowing, faltering and failing in very frequent cycles of only a few minutes (but in a very paterned way through the 90 minutes, roughly, of being with him).

Robert’s attending to me, however weakly and briefly (albeit repetitively, I think), drew me to suggest to Angela that she might consider talking or reading to him in more varied ways. While Angela’s voice is ultra-familiar to Robert, and pleasant too, I wonder if she might seek to vary it sometimes — keeping it familiar mostly (and voices are so hard to disguise, really) but also to talk or read sometimes with conscious very marked tonal changes (and more slowly), to see if Robert might appear to attend with observable difference. The aim would not be annoy Robert, nor to make him anxious, of course, but to vary sounds and to keep observing closely.

It will also be interesting and well worthwhile to sit in on the Speech & Language Therapy sessions a bit — not exactly to become an amateur SLT-er, but to pick up any principles of his/her working approach, since elements must be useful to back up, reinforce, or just learn from for insight. The SLT-ing time must currently be spent on Robert’s emergence in becoming re-enabled to make speech sounds or (and more accessibly for us non-SLTers) in discerning or enhancing Robert’s receptiveness to sounds and speech.

It’s important to keep finding, thinking about, exchanging-sharing, trying reasoned ideas and insights about making progress after brain injury. The NRH staff are expert, friendly, supportive and I wouldn’t be suggesting parallel work-shifts of amateurs! Not at all. But people with brain injuries and closest partner-carers are also significant expert-insiders. We can observe, innovate, add and succeed a little!

Besides any such abstract thoughts, it was just a pleasure to be with Robert (and Angela). Being with him certainly gives me the sincere and grounded hope that it will be possible to verify, build and develop his apparent inclination to attend. … I hope that Angela’s blog might have other people joining in sometimes, because it’s good to have a space where people share ideas, thoughts and hopes, both to ‘communify’ the ideas and also sometimes to find new ideas, new ways to use ourselves towards the interesting, well-worthwhile purpose of re-enabling Robert and other people who have time cut off.

Twenty-one years ago, I started my own unremembered gap of time after a brain injury different in type from Robert’s (mine was from a head injury), and then a longer desolate time, then progress and setbacks, lengthily. And I mention this for two sets of reasons (coming from experience). With that ‘insider-hood’ (although EVERY brain injury really is simply unique), it’s amazingly important to be alive and to make any progress, however small-seeming — being alive is openness to good opportunities; progress is a great experience in itself and is a possible messenger for more-and-better. Secondly, for Robert, having Angela’s support activities (as well as her love, which fuels it) is a huge asset.

I look forward to seeing Robert again. While it sounds a tedious platitude to say ‘it’s a hard journey ahead’, Robert has death-defied and has many progress opportunities. It will be pure pleasure to follow progress, however fast or slow, and to see Robert more, so that’s well worth looking forward to.


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