Norwich father injured in fatal crash fights back

PUBLISHED: 12:25 05 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:25 05 February 2013

Two years on from suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car crash which killed his wife, scientist James Piercy is planning a series of talks enitled

Two years on from suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car crash which killed his wife, scientist James Piercy is planning a series of talks enitled "What's going on in his head?" Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2013

A father-of-three who lost his wife and suffered a life-changing head injury in a car crash today told of his “phenomenal” road to recovery.

James Piercy, right, from Dereham Road, Norwich, will now teach people about head injuries after experiencing the lows and highs of a two-year road to recovery.

The life of the 41-year-old and his family changed forever on January 30, 2011 when a nail punctured the tyre of their red Citroen Berlingo on the dual carriageway at Dereham.

“It was a fairly ordinary Sunday,” he said. “We all clambered into the car – myself, my wife and the three kids and drove off around Dereham bypass.

“A nail then went into the tyre of the car and it went off the road and hit a tree and that is when my life changed.

“My wife was killed immediately.”

Mr Piercy’s three children escaped life-changing injuries, but their father would spend the next three weeks in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, after hitting the front right side of his head against the dashboard.

“I was a mess,” he said. “The last memory I have is the day before the accident, collecting my daughter.”

The East Anglian Air Ambulance was called and sedated Mr Piercy before taking him to hospital.

His next memory is three weeks later when he woke up tired and confused.

Doctors had little idea how he would recover from the brain injury.

“It is really hard to know exactly what will happen,” he said. “No one knew how much better I would get.”

He also had to deal with the loss of his wife but he tried to stay positive throughout.

“It is likely I was depressed but now that has gone,” he said. “If you can not smile and laugh about things you might as well give up.”

He was also keen for his children to return to normality quickly and get back to school.

They were helped by charity Nelson’s Journey which supports bereaved children in Norfolk.

And ultimately Mr Piercy surprised doctors with the speed of his recovery.

He believes his “phenomenal” recovery was partly helped by his desire to get home.

“I was determined to do stuff,” he said. “I was determined to get home and look after my kids.”

He has now returned to his previous job as a science communicator part time, but the affects of the crash still impact on Mr Piercy every day.

“Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms as well as speech problems,” he said. “You can’t say some words; they just won’t come out even though you know the word.”

In the early stages of recover he also felt weak down the right-hand side of his body.

“Half my tongue would feel different from the other half,” he said.

It was these curiosities that made him want to find out more about brain injuries and how they affect victims differently.

Mr Piercy, who used to work at Inspire Discovery Centre on Oak Street, said: “I have been fascinated by what we know and don’t know about brains and trying to understand why we act and feel how we do.

“I wanted to be able to help other people understand what it is like.

“When I’m really tired it’s like I have been drinking heavily. It is a hidden disability.”

It means he struggles to drive and work for long periods and found it hard to get back into his hobby of Molly Dancing.

But six months after the accident he moved an audience to tears with his story and found it helped his recovery.

“After the talk I was on a real high,” he said. “I told myself, I can still do this.”

He has now been given funding by the Wellcome Trust for a series of talks called What’s going on in his head?.

The first talk will take place on Wednesday February 13 at 8pm in the Benjamin Gooch Lecture Theatre, Level 1, East Atrium at the NNUH.

It is part of the NNUH Hospitals Arts Project and supported by The Wellcome Trust.

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