Client Stories » Pat

Happy to be alive

Author: Pat
Date: March 1st, 2004

Before the accident, I was a social, hard-working, life loving single lady. I had a good job and was very interested in my work as a Medical Scientist. I cross matched blood and I did biochemical and haematological tests for people coming into hospital. I spent 10 years as a Lifeline telephone counsellor and was active in my church. I come from a warm loving family.

Just prior to my accident, with staff cuts, I went on-call frequently. I became very overtired and stressed. I thought I was helping the company and not letting our patients down. My life became unbalanced, too much work. I ask myself now about my accident: how tired was I? Did I lose my concentration? Shift work can make you very tense and tired.

I don’t remember anything at all about my accident. My family tells me this is what they think happened: I was on my way to visit a friend, I was not speeding, driving along at 60km/hr. I was changing a music tape when my car clipped a tree. My car rolled three times or more. There’s scarcely a mark on the tree but my brain bumped around and my brain stem was injured. Two retired nurses helped me and phoned the ambulance. When the nurses found me I was clutching a tape in my left hand. I was thrown against the back seat, my body slipping through the seat belt. I was complaining of pain in my left leg. My face was cut and bloodied. My accident happened at 11:30am. I was air lifted to Nepean Hospital by helicopter and admitted just before 3pm. I was due for work at 2pm. I did not make it that day, but I did make it to the hospital, alive and unconscious. I was in the Intensive Care Unit, in a coma for six weeks. I had a tracheotomy where they cut a hole in my neck to insert a tube so I could breathe. I have a hole in my head where they released some pressure on my brain. I lost my licence and I feel very sad about this. I loved driving and visiting friends. To me it is a real loss of mobility.

From hospital I was transferred to the Brain Injury Unit. The staff were very nice to me. I still go back and visit at Christmas. I remember swimming in the pool each day doing my physio exercises. Joan taught me to walk again. Vanessa taught me to talk again, and Michelle showed me how to live my life again, to cook, go shopping, to organise my day and look after myself. These were confusing days for me. I used to think Vanessa and Michelle were my nieces. I liked walking around, and one day went out the front door and didn’t come back. The Security Guard found me on the main road. After that I had to wear a bracelet that went: “BEEP BEEP” if I went out the front door.

A part of the Brain Injury Unit was called New Haven, a section which helped people become more independent. I thought I was special, and I am. They said: “This place is your home.” So I labelled everything mine. I put my initials on everything, on the fridge, the toaster, the bed head, and the microwave. I was very happy. I thought I owned the whole place. I was very confused. I became an expert letter writer. I wrote to everyone I could think of family, friends, doctors, therapists, the Prime Minister John Howard, Bill Clinton in all his troubles, Hilary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea. I saw a psychologist about my writing and he seemed to think I was just finding myself again. From the Brain Injury Unit I went to a Nursing Home. I joined the local library, and went to a leisure learning centre where I took on a range of courses in my areas of interest.

In 1999 I came to live in Randwick with my sister. This is when I became involved with HeadEast. A Community Access Worker from HeadEast helps me set and achieve my goals such as riding a bike or using the computer and email. I also write articles for our newsletter and give presentations to high school students and traffic offenders with the Community Education Team.

Today I keep myself busy with lots of fun things like, painting, croquet, poetry and children’s story writing, reading, playing the piano, and cycling (3 wheeler). I love travel and have visited Kakadu, Canberra, Melbourne, Southern Highlands, Nelson’s Bay, Coffs Harbour and Thailand. I have made many new friends and enjoy going out and socialising. I am still very involved in my church. Last year I attended a Pastoral Ministry Course at the Prince of Wales Hospital. This course entailed five full days of education and group work sessions, 6 evening meetings at my church and ten three hour supervised visits. I now visit patients on my own.

I know I am not exactly the same person I was. I am slower in my movements as I have left side paralysis. I tire easily. At times I become confused and have short term memory loss. But I am much more careful. My life seems more balanced. I don’t work so hard, in fact I don’t work at all and I don’t think about going back. I’m very happy. Happy I'm alive with no broken bones.