Thank you Dean Whitfield, Personal Trainer at Rookery Fit Farm Bognor Regis.
Dean is very positive about his message and inspires many people, especially those who know him as a Personal Instructor. In 2001, aged seventeen, Dean was a passenger in a car involved in a very serious traffic accident : hitting a double-decker bus head on.
No drink or drugs were involved just sadly the inexperience of a young driver with a fairly powerful car. His friend, the driver, was killed and Dean was hospitalised for many weeks.
He was kept in an induced coma for three weeks and then had some time in recovery.
His injuries were:
Frontal lobe brain damage: it controls emotions and personality.
Serious hand damage.
Double fracture of skull, eye out of socket, collarbone broken, lung collapsed.
He was paralysed from the neck down and was in an induced coma to allow the brain to repair and heal. After being brought round, his family were warned of potential brain damage.
He is aware he is very fortunate to be alive.
Q. What is his attitude to life now?
Before the accident, he was training to be a graphic designer. Dean’s memory was that the brain surgeon told him not to expect too much. This just made him decide to prove the doctors and anyone else who shared that message, wrong. He was not interested in being told what he could and couldn’t hope to achieve. Any negative suggestions were turned into positive efforts.
He suffered weight and muscle loss. He was in a wheelchair because he couldn’t walk. The medical people needed to do tests. Dean asked for them to be done straight away. He felt the medical people were very negative. Again his attitude was to prove them wrong.
Possible alterations to staircases and moving his bedroom downstairs were mentioned to his parents. Dean’s attitude was ‘No. If I can’t walk up stairs, I’ll crawl up.’
They were trying to class him as disabled and this constantly made him strive to prove them wrong.
Q. Do you have any disability now?
The recovery process was slow and everything was achieved in baby steps. In the first two years, his short-term memory was problematic. He could not recognise newer friends but did recognise close family. He was given puzzles and tasks which little children are given. He felt that his brain was like a big jigsaw puzzle where many pieces of the puzzle were missing. But when one piece fitted in, it brought back other pieces with it. He had been dyslexic and this had worsened. He saw a psychiatrist and a speech therapist for about five years. It was all done in baby steps – daunting but successful.
Q. Where is he now? Is he living a normal life?
Yes, Dean shares his own home with his fiancée, and their baby son.
Q. So what worked for him?
Dean states that the thing that really got him to where he is today is fitness, exercise.
Around eight months after the accident, Dean went back to his graphic design course – a few hours at a time, mainly to try to get back to some form of normality and social interaction. He finished the course and his results were good but he hoped for better. Dean admitted to being a bit of a perfectionist and has always tried to be the best he can be!
He also knew that he really wanted to be a Personal Trainer because he did a lot of his own rehabilitation. The NHS rehab was great for the elderly but he felt he wasn’t pushed hard enough. He motivated himself. He wanted to feel a ‘good sweat’!
To regain his strength he started with swimming. He had been a lifeguard at a local pool. His job had been kept open and he was allowed to use the facilities free of charge. He swam regularly, three times a week, for up to a year. The next step forward took him to the gym. A GP referral allowed him to visit three times a week. After that, he would attend the gym five days a week. He had to cycle half an hour there and back. He then worked there as a gym instructor for two years. He now works at Fitness First as a Personal Instructor.
He got his driving licence back when proved fit. He drives and rides a motorbike now too. The accident holds no fear regarding driving and motorbike riding. Life is for living!
Dean is rightly very pleased with his recovery and where he is in his life today. He promotes positivity. He believes his story and his success undoubtedly helps to motivate his clients. He is happy to have included the more graphic detail. He believes the reader can become more involved, possibly relate to it and learn. He wants to show people they can succeed if they are prepared to put their mind to the task.
Dean Whitfield, Personal Trainer at Fitness First, Bognor Regis. Deansfitness@gmail.com
When I wrote my book Survive and Thrive after Trauma in 2012 a section shares interviews with those now thriving after an emotional challenge. Those I interviewed who shared their message will have continued along their path of increased learning, self joy and self awareness. We are not alone; should we choose we can learn from others, take and use information generously shared, be encouraged and in some cases, be enlightened.