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Peter Clarke

May 14, 2010

In September 2003 48-year-old Peter Clarke from Hall Green in Birmingham suffered such severe injuries in a head-on road crash, nobody thought he would survive.

He pulled through, but his injuries affected his ability to breathe, eat and walk – and he was unable to speak.

He learnt sign language so he could communicate with his carers and now seven years on Mr Clarke is using that skill to help others.

Mr Clarke suffered a diffuse axonal injury (DAI) – a serious brain injury which often results in the patient falling into a coma, and his heart stopped twice during surgery.

Recovery has not been easy. “I feel like I was born on the day I woke up in hospital,” he said.

“Other people have to tell me what I was like before the accident, as I have no recollection of that life.”

Ongoing treatment

Before the crash Mr Clarke worked as a lorry driver, but has been unable to return to his previous job.

“But I had to move forward and have never lost track of my goal,” he said.

He is still receiving ongoing treatment, and has had to develop coping strategies to deal with disabilities which affect his memory, walking, breathing and eating.

He will have to return to Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital for ongoing treatment every four months for the rest of his life.

“I am just glad to be alive and I am looking forward to helping other people rebuild their lives again,” he said.

Car wreckage

Mr Clarke was on his way to work when another car collided with his

Since his accident, and with the help of Birmingham Adult Education Service, Mr Clarke has gained a Level 1 qualification in British Sign Language.

He also won the service’s Outstanding Learner of the Year award at the city council’s Shining Star awards last year.

Mr Clarke now helps deaf patients to communicate whilst in hospital, and is supporting Adult Learners’ Week in the West Midlands to encourage others to get involved with adult education .

He said: “It’s all down to your approach to learning – there is assistance out there to help you progress.

“Some people don’t know where to go, but they shouldn’t give up.”

Birmingham Adult Education Service is one of the largest providers of adult learning opportunities in the West Midlands, offering over 4,000 part time courses each year to more than 25,000 learners.


Learning support manager Maggie Plummer had no idea of the extent of the injuries Mr Clarke had suffered when she met him.

She said: “When you consider what he has been through and all of the gruelling treatment he has had to endure, you realise that his determination and sheer strength of will is incredible.

“He has not only learnt sign language, he’s had to learn to walk and talk again.”

Leg fracture

Mr Clarke suffered a double fracture to his right leg

Adult Learners’ Week comprises of a number of events promoting the benefits of all kinds of learning.

Spokeswoman Jo Knight said: “We want adults to re-engage with learning and take the first steps back into education.”

Now Mr Clarke plans to extend his work in adult education, helping people with learning disabilities.

He said: “It has been traumatic but I hope to show people that there is life after terrible trauma.”

The driver of the vehicle that collided with Mr Clarke’s car in Northamptonshire received minor injuries and was later convicted of dangerous driving at Corby Magistrates court.

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