My mountain bike crash was in November 2020. I had finally found a women's group to ride with so I left my son with my mum and went for an evening ride. I had ridden the trail we were on at Te Miro countless times, but as with accidents, this time it went wrong. Instead of landing on my wheels after jumping over a table top jump I landed on my head. Luckily there was an ED nurse riding in the group so I was in very good hands. I was unconscious and non-responsive for a very long time and was winched out of the forest in a helicopter bucket and flown to Waikato Hospital at GCS level 1. Thankfully no broken bones or neck, just a broken brain!
Recovery was very frustrating, and still is. I don't remember much of the first few weeks back at home (I was only in hospital for 3 days) but my mum stayed with us for a while to help out with my son who was 10 at the time. The headaches and noise and light sensitivity were the worst and I am still plagued by them sometimes when I am really tired. I got impatient very quickly which was hard because everything took so much longer to do! I could not drive for nearly a year but luckily we live in a very central location in Cambridge so walking to get things and get my son to school was easy enough.
I was bored after a year of rehab at home not being able to do much and I knew my employment options were limited. There was a coffee bike at the university where I had worked in Melbourne and I had loved the idea so I started thinking that perhaps I could give it a go here. The beauty of the idea of having my own business meant that I could work hours that my brain could manage rather than having to work hours set by an employer.
It was an extremely challenging process to get funding for the business and get it up and running and manage rehab and parenting at the same time but I did it. I started working 3 days a week for only 2 hours each day. I now work 6 or 7 days a week with shifts as long as 6 hours. The brain fatigue still has a big impact on my capacity but I still try to have daily rests and minimise stimulation where I can.
This is my second TBI. Yes, very lucky! Both have involved bikes so it's a little ironic that I have created a business on a bike! Both times I feel I have been discharged too quickly with little support and have had to navigate finding the right care and getting answers myself. Thankfully I have an amazing family. I feel that brain injury care and support in the upper north island is far inferior to what I have heard is available in Wellington and Christchurch. I also feel that people do not understand the impact of a brain injury well enough, not only for the injured person but for the wider family. It has taken three years for my son to get over his fear of bikes and have a go at riding one again! He didn't see me crash and wasn't riding with me that night, the accident just created a general fear and anxiety of bikes in him.
I also think that I am a good example that many things are still possible after a TBI and there is hope, you just have to find a way to make it work for you. This is why I am using my experience and my little business to advocate and raise awareness where I can. I can't wait for Brain Injury Awareness month March 2024 and I'm already brewing ideas.