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Brain Injury Awareness

Me and my mum

Brain Injury is not a nice topic; it’s a bit mysterious, a lot scary and for me very personal. This picture was taken of my Mother and I when I was just a little girl. It’s hard to believe sometimes that she was so young – I am 38 this year with a two year old and my Mother was in her very early 20s in this picture! Age 38 for me will mark a significant milestone too, it will be the same age that my Mother was when she had the car accident that changed so many lives forever.

I was 16 at the time, working in my first part time job and enjoying the somewhat selfish life of a teenager with very little comprehension beyond my existence on the Central Coast. Due to the minimal age difference between my Mother and I, we were close. My younger brother and I shared a home with her that was always filled with laughter, lovely adults, our friends, cooking and simple pleasures. Our parents had divorced years earlier and we had adjusted to the life of shared care.

The day of the accident was one of my first days in my new retail job and Mum had dropped me at work on the Sunday morning, there was a feeling that I could not shake. As I sit here and write this post it comes back to me as though it were just yesterday, when in fact it was over 20 years ago now. It was a feeling of unease, a darkness in the pit of my stomach and as Mum drove away from the car-park I waved and then tripped onto the escalator, the feeling amplified in my stomach.

Its interesting when reflecting on times of tragedy, there are details that never leave you and there are those things that I struggle to recall and make sense of. The accident occurred on a quiet, winding road only a few hundred metres from our home, there was nobody to witness and no other car involved, only the telegraph pole that caused the impact and literally took my Mother from us that day.

Brain injury cannot be immediately seen. We were given the chance to see our Mother that day before she was transported to Sydney. We did not know if we would ever see her alive again so we fumbled into the emergency room and at first there were no obvious signs of the irreparable damage we would later discover. 20 years ago cars did not have air bags, the impact of a major collision with a telegraph pole on her skull was catastrophic. The Royal North Shore ICU became our regular place to visit, regular only in the sense of frequency; it has since become the most feared place in my memory.

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It often frustrates me to see movies and fictional television attempting to depict brain injury, brushing over the reality in a way that just does not educate or prepare anyone for this experience. Of course I hope that nobody ever has to live through this experience however the reality is that they do and for me being somewhat prepared could have saved a lot of pain. As a 16 year old my comprehension of this injury was limited, and looking back I created a lot of barriers to becoming more educated, the overwhelming fear blocking many attempts by others to involve me in the support and education offered to my family.

It was a matter of denial for me for many years, we lost our Mother that day, on that road, and although I held onto hope for many years that she would somehow return in her mannerisms and spirit it eventually became obvious that her type of brain injury had taken all of that when it appeared so suddenly in our lives, leaving us with a stranger who needed to learn to talk, walk and take care of themselves all over again. The experience of living with a brain injury in our family was handled in many different ways by different people, looking back now I have my regrets and my sadness has not faded however at some point along the way I have been able to work through my guilt and forgive the 16 year old me, accepting that I was doing the best that I could do at the time, whilst my whole world crumbled around me.

We lost our Mother again when she did actually die in 2000, when her body was unable to fight off the advanced breast cancer that shattered our already fragile lives several years after the accident. The rehabilitation and the recovery from her brain injury was ongoing, agonising, complex and cannot ever be recounted in its entirety or its accuracy. It has become my passion and my purpose however to share the parts of our story that may somehow be recognised by others and in turn provide some comfort.

Brain injury is a cause close to my heart, and I feel a sense of connection to anyone else out there living through this in whatever way it has appeared in their lives. I hope that we as a society are able to provide the collective support that all people affected by brain injury need to know that they are not alone and that one day it will hurt less in their hearts.

To learn more about Brain Injury Awareness read here

Tags: mamamia-cares , health-and-wellbeing
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