Wednesday, April 17, 2024

‘I fell through the cracks’: Vancouver Island man advocates for victims of brain injuries


Ten years ago, a man who was born and raised on Vancouver Island was attacked and his life was changed forever. 

Now he is making positive changes in his life and seeking closure through a variety of methods that he hopes will help others like him. 

Kyle Mockford, who was in his early 20s in 2012, was struck in the head while out with friends in downtown Victoria. 

Prior to his assault, he had a passion for volunteering in Africa where he had previously been on two trips to help build and work in sustainable, eco-friendly orphanages. 

After his last African trip, Mockford moved back to Victoria from his hometown of Duncan to make some money and attend UVic before going back to Africa on another volunteering trip. 

It was during that time the trajectory of his life changed.

The incident gave Mockford a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that damaged his frontal lobe which regulates emotions and decision making. 

After over 10 years, Mockford has made sharing his story a priority for his recovery and to help those who may be suffering in silence from a similar traumatic injury.

The incident that changed his life

“I was out with some friends one night, just catching up at a bar and then one friend suggested we go to a nightclub,” Mockford told Victoria Buzz. 

“At the end of the night, when it closed down I was walking to my car and some drunk guy ran up to me and attacked me.”

Mockford says he was the designated driver for the night and the man who’d hit him from behind was belligerently drunk and targeted him because they were both interested in the same woman. 

“It doesn’t give him permission or anything like that, but it was over a mutual friend,” said Mockford. 

“This guy saw me as a threat, but I never provoked him or anything like that. It was very out of the ordinary and very surprising.”

Mockford was left unconscious and was taken to the Royal Jubilee Hospital by paramedics. The man who had assaulted him fled the scene, but police were notified of the incident and opened an investigation. 

“The next thing I knew I was in the hospital where I could not stop vomiting, went in and out of consciousness and was rushed for a CT scan for suspected bleeding in the brain,” Mockford explained.

“Literally 2-3 hours later I was discharged and told to go home and rest. I was in a dazed and confused state for weeks following.”

Mockford says his family doctor was in the process of retiring and at the time he wasn’t able to speak to the physician about the ordeal and its lasting effects. 

“My life started to fall apart. I started to experience severe headaches, balance problems, fatigue, poor coordination, a reduction in my reasoning skills, concentration and memory,” said Mockford.

In addition to these impacts, Mockford found that he had extreme difficulty in social settings due to having “poor social awareness, emotional problems, impulsivity, reduced judgment, anger outbursts, reduced motivation and isolation.”

He had suffered a severe concussion and feels as if he was let down by the healthcare system for being discharged too soon and not given the resources he needed to heal or to know what a difficult road was ahead of him.

It wasn’t just the healthcare system that allowed Mockford to slip through the cracks of their system though, the legal system also made him feel like he got the short end of the stick.

“I feel like I fell through the cracks in every area,” Mockford told Victoria Buzz. “Doctors look at the medical charts now and lawyers look at the legal side and they’re just shocked.”

He says he was never given a social worker or a case manager and Victim’s Services have now made numerous apologies to him because they never received his case from police to follow up with him. 

The man who had attacked him was caught eventually and charges were pressed against him, but Mockford believes the sentence was too light for the life-altering consequences he’s had to endure.

The offender was given 12 months’ probation and he was made to pay restitution for Mockford’s lost earnings. According to Mockford, these restitution funds have never been paid to him.

After lengthy attempts to try and appeal to the courts, Mockford has had no headway in receiving the restitution which is now more than 10-years old. 

Moving forward

Mockford has suffered through over 10 years of trying to get his life back after receiving his TBI that was not given the attention it needed by the courts or the healthcare system. 

Now, all he seeks is closure through sharing his story for other victims of TBIs to know that they are not alone and there are services, treatments and communities to support people with TBIs on Vancouver Island. 

There is a non-profit community organization called the Victoria Brain Injury Society in the capital, but Mockford, who now resides in Cowichan Valley, is a member of the Cowichan Brain Injury Society.

“The big pivot in my life was getting connected with the local brain injury society,” Mockford explained. “They’ve really shined a light on brain injury effects, how the brain works and recovery.”

Mockford also advocates for therapy and regular exercise which have helped him regain parts of his life he thought for a time would be gone to him forever. 

He has goals of securing a more stable job and returning to post-secondary schooling to get a degree or a diploma, as he was never able to return to his studies following the incident. 

“My goal is to get my life back to the best life I can and make the best of it,” said Mockford. “I try not to think about what happened to me, but I get reminded each and every day.”

“Take care of your brain as it’s the only one that you got and does not repair back like other parts of your body. You injure your brain, you injure every single part of your body, so take care of it.”

In June 2021, NDP MP for the Langford-Malahat region, Alistair MacGregor, introduced Bill C-323, The National Strategy on Brain Injuries Act to Parliament where it was given its first reading.

The Bill would see The Minister of Health “develop a national strategy to support and improve brain injury prevention and treatment.‍”

Since its first reading, no headway was made on its implementation so MacGregor tried again to implement an Act to establish a national strategy on brain injuries

In this Bill, which had its first reading in June, 2022, “the development of a national strategy to support and improve brain injury awareness, prevention and treatment as well as the rehabilitation and recovery of persons living with a brain injury” could be established in Canada. 

Mockford and the Cowichan Brain Injury Society are trying to support this Bill through an online petition.

Curtis Blandy

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