I am a happily married 41-year-old father of three beautiful daughters, aged 5, 9 and 12. I work in IT. I was a happy, active and fit person who enjoyed woodwork, running and cycling prior to my accident.
On 13 June 2013, I was supposed to pick my daughters up from their Irish Dancing lesson after school. I was going to be early so I went for a bike ride along a fire trail. I fell off my bike, landing on my head hard enough to break my helmet off my head, break my spine, my jaw and collar bone resulting in a traumatic brain injury. I was extremely lucky to have not damaged my spinal cord, either in the accident or during my rescue. It really is a testament to the medical services in this country that not only am I still alive but I can walk and I can still mostly function in my life.
From here, my good luck started. I was found by bush walkers who called for police and ambulance assistance. The ambulance arrived by 4WD and then I was airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital. My long suffering wife was wondering where I was and was talking to the guys who I often rode with in my front yard working out whether to go and find me. The Police turned up and told them about the accident.
I spent two weeks in a coma in Royal North Shore Hospital. During that time I had operations to rectify much of the damage caused. A drain was inserted in my skull to reduce pressure, jaw surgery and spine surgery. After 5 weeks I was transferred to Royal Rehab, where I spent what felt like a long time in PTA.
About 6 weeks after the accident I escaped PTA. It was 47 days before I passed the PTA test 3 days in a row. I even cheated! When I’d finished the test one day, I wrote some of the answers on a whiteboard I had in the room as I could remember them for a few minutes! The next day when I was being tested again I could see the whiteboard over the OT’s shoulder. My ability to file things was wrecked so cheating at that level was evidence my brain was slowly putting itself back together. Right?
My goal to be with my wife and family again is what drove me to participate in my rehabilitation as much as possible and to get back to where I was before. I felt like when my memory “woke” I was at the bottom of a black pit. The choice was to sit there and stare at the wall or to crawl upwards. My sister-in-law said that it’s very helpful that Royal Rehab are there to build the stairs for you. Being an inpatient was being in an extremely encouraging and supportive environment, yet after some 4 ½ months of hospital stays, I was ready for my next challenge—home life.
I returned to my old job 7½ months later. Returning to work was challenging, reminding me I was still in a rehabilitation process, with steps to take and goals to achieve. It was challenging and rewarding, especially feeling like I am contributing to my life again. Once again my OT has been a big help. Focusing on communication and on strategies I could use to help overcome issues has been very beneficial.
Finally my eyesight was fixed enough for me to go for my license again. I earned my license back through the driving school here—passing the test felt as great as getting my P’s all those years back.
I now really enjoy my life at home with my wife and three very supporting and lovely daughters. I enjoy being productive. I feel my recovery is ongoing but life continues to improve and my focus is now on my relationships with the lovely and terribly supportive people who surround me.
My Royal Rehab therapist often told me, “Take baby steps in the right direction”. It has been a main thought I have hung onto a lot since then. The time will pass anyway but baby steps in the right direction and you will get there so long as you just keep going.