Photo of Danette with her family

Danette

On 6th June 2013, when I was 48 years old, I went to the Skin Cancer Clinic and then onto get a sunspot lasered. When I was returning around 2:00 pm I blacked out at the wheel, hitting each side of the road before crossing the median strip and having a head-on collision with another car. Thankfully the driver in that car escaped serious injury but I was very lucky to survive.  I sustained multiple injuries: head and neck injuries, a fractured back, abdominal injuries and broken collarbone and ribs. The head injuries were mainly to my brainstem.

I was airlifted to Westmead Hospital where pins and screws were inserted in my neck and a myriad of other procedures were undertaken. I awoke from a long series of drug-induced nightmares to find I could only move my right toes and after a few days managed to speak to my children (Jasper, then 11 and Samara, 9).

I then spent the next six months at Royal Rehab, completing the long and arduous task of learning how to walk and eat again. I spent three months of eating nothing and being fed by a nasal gastric tube to thickened fluids to minced food, then onto standard food. My injuries to my neck and brainstem meant I had lost the ability to eat properly and speaking was difficult. I had sustained a 7th nerve facial palsy and my left shoulder had dropped. My vision was affected and has still not completely returned to normal.

I went from a fully smiling face to nothing, which was very hard and even though there are slight improvements, I still have problems with this. The usual question of when will things get better could never be answered. You see brain injuries are so varied and unique that there is no real answer. I have learnt to stop asking and just to get actively involved in my rehabilitation.

I have no memory of the incident but l am very fortunate that my memories of the past are still unchanged. Sometimes I have a little trouble with my short-term memory. I love cooking and have restarted my business, Samibop, making children’s clothing from recycled and vintage fabrics.

All I can say is it just takes time… and eventually things will get better. We live in a lucky country and take all the help you can.