Imagine waking up in a hospital bed in a country far away with absolutely no recollection of anything about your life: not even who you are, or where you are, and no memory or recognition of your friends or family.
That was the terrifying reality for University of Bath alumnus, Ben Clench, back in 2010 when he sustained life-changing injuries after being hit by a car in a freak and horrendous accident in the Dominican Republic.
A graduate from the University in Economics and Development, Ben was working at the time in international development. He had travelled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic on holiday to visit his girlfriend Jazz, who was helping in Haiti in recovery efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
One night, walking back to their hotel in neighbouring Dominican Republic, a speeding car lost control, left the road, and mounted the pavement hitting Ben and Jazz. Tragically, Jazz was killed instantly; Ben was left in a coma for a month.
He recalls: “We were just walking home after our last meal before travelling back to Haiti and one street from our hotel a speeding car got knocked on to the pavement and hit us both. Jazz was run over under the car and I got hit and was thrown out into the road.
“Ahead of me a group of doctors were in their car, heard the crash so reversed to see what had happened, seeing that they could help me picked me up and drove me to hospital. They got me medical attention in the golden hour when you need the medical attention to save one's life.
"After I woke from the coma I couldn't talk or walk. I had to relearn the names and faces of my friends and family. I couldn't even remember my girlfriend of two years who died in the accident. I lost years of precious memories in the split second that it took for the car to crash into me.”
Becoming Ben Again
In the 12 years post-accident, Ben has been attempting to put his life back together again: learning about his life from friends and family, authoring an acclaimed memoir of his experiences ‘Ben Again’, as well as completing a master’s degree, running a half marathon, and giving a TED talk.
Now, he wants to use his experiences to help others facing similar challenges. He is crowdfunding to support a new documentary all about Traumatic Brain Injuries – something which affects one person every 90 seconds in the UK. With just two weeks left, he is nearing his £10,000 target.
Speaking from his home in Brighton, Ben explained: “Brain injury can have a variety of impacts and is not yet fully understood properly by doctors through brain scans. We want to shed light on the potential impacts that can happen in just a split second.
“I want to make this documentary to uncover and tell people’s recovery stories following their own brain injuries. I know this can help people who are facing similar life-changing moments, like I did in 2010, on their own road to recovery.”
Ben studied at Bath from 2002 to 2006 and friends he made at University have been an important source of strength and support during his recovery. During his studies, he spent his third year abroad in Thailand via a research project looking at people’s wellbeing, coordinated by Professors Allister McGregor and Joe Devine.
Follow the patient
To learn more about Ben’s documentary ambition – working alongside producer Sini Manner - and to support his Crowdfunder see https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/follow-the-patient-shortdoco.
Rewards for those pledging support include a graphic-art print T-shirt designed by an artist with the image of Ben’s brain.