Teacher’s fight after post-concussion shock

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sony

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

When Joy Shawcross received a bump to the head from a falling object, she thought little of it and carried on with her busy life as a secondary school assistant headteacher.

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sony

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But what seemed like a minor knock soon transpired to be a more serious injury which would leave the 58-year-old struggling to do a job she had done expertly for more than 20 years.

The teacher at Archbishop Sancroft High School (ASHS), in Harleston, even had to spend six weeks in a darkened room for 24 hours per day to recover after developing post-concussion syndrome following the unfortunate blow in March last year.

But now, after receiving the support of students and staff at the school, as well as her family, she has gone on to make a complete recovery, meaning she could retire on a high after 22 years and eight months at ASHS.

Unaware the falling object had compacted her neck, the grandmother-of-eight did not go for treatment until she noticed difficulties balancing and being able to hold conversations over the phone.

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sony

Joy Shawcross retires as Assistant head at Archbishop Sancroft School in Harleston. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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A neurosurgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) diagnosed her as suffering from post-concussion, which can cause headaches, dizziness and affect a person's thinking abilities for months afterwards.

As a result Mrs Shawcross was told she had to spend 24 hours a day in total darkness, with only a few minutes each day in the garden, to recover and start to regain her cognitive abilities.

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Her husband Alan had to help her around her home in Attleborough.

'I think I slept for between 14 and 20 hours a day,' she said.

'I couldn't talk on the phone because I couldn't connect with what the other person was saying. It took five minutes for me to respond to a question. I couldn't read and I couldn't remember things.'

Over time, Mrs Shawcross' abilities started to return.

She was able to go back to her job several weeks later but still did not feel 100pc.

'I wasn't right. I wasn't able to think properly,' said Mrs Shawcross, who was head of maths at ASHS before taking on the assistant head's role.

'I could do the maths but I still felt I couldn't do the other part of the job properly.'

In her senior role, part of Mrs Shawcross' responsibility was designing the school timetable - a complicated process at which she had usually excelled, but now struggled to get her head around.

As ASHS was going through a school restructuring at the time, she decided the end of the school year in 2014 was the right time to leave and do something new.

She now says that her cognitive abilities are back to where they were before the injury. However she has warned people who receive a bump to the head to get it checked out by a doctor in case it develops into something worse.

'The students were brilliant and everyone at the school was very supportive,' she said. 'It has a huge impact on my life and everyone around me.'

Were you taught by Mrs Shawcross? Pay your tribute to her work by writing, giving your full contact details, to:: Mercury Letters, 26 Mere Street, Diss IP22 4AD or email dma.letters@archant.co.uk

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