My name is Aimee Malcolm. I am 16 years old, in year 11 at
Mansfield State High School. I have a brother named Kurtis, who is
19, and a twin sister Rebekah, who is my best friend in the world.
We all play musical instruments (Kurt studies viola @ UQ; Rebekah
plays double bass and bass guitar).
I absolutely love all kinds of music (both listening and playing),
inline speed skating, roller derby, swimming, maths, science, art,
drama and film. My favourite popular musicians are Megan Washington
and Missy Higgins. I also love Celtic music - especially the
Shetland and Cape Breton styles. My favourite Celtic musicians are
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Hanneke Cassel, and of course
Emma Nixon (I play with her Brisbane Celtic Fiddle Club).
I play the violin (I am taught by Stephen Chin) and I am currently
studying grade 7 AMEB repertoire. I sing, and I recently started
playing the piano - I am studying grade 2 AMEB. I have also taught
myself to play the guitar. I just love trying different musical
instruments. One day I want to own a mandolin, a Celtic Harp and a
I write my own songs in my spare time. When I leave school I want
to study music at university and learn how to become a recording
artist, or a music producer.
I also have an ABI - an Acquired Brain Injury.
I have a benign growth in my brain called a Cavernoma - also
sometimes known as a 'Strawberry Birth Mark', except it looks more
like a large raspberry , it is filled with blood, and it is in my
mid-brain. It has a nasty habit of causing trouble. They can't
operate to remove it - it is inaccessible.
On 4th June, 2009, at age 10, I had a large bleed in my brain - a
haemorrhagic stroke. We still don't know why. It just happened. I
was really lucky - I was already in hospital when it happened. Mum
and dad knew something wasn't right, and took me there in the hours
beforehand to find out why I wasn't 'quite right'.
On 30th August, 2012, at age 13, I had another stroke (it bled
into itself) after being hit in the back of the neck with a tennis
ball at school.
My brain is damaged in and around the brainstem and down into the
cerebellum. My optic nerve has also been affected.
I have some weakness on my left side in my arm, leg, face, hand,
and foot and core muscles. My speech and swallowing is affected. I
have poor balance, co-ordination, and proprioception. I have a
vestibular imbalance (coming from the brain, not the ear). I have a
loss of, and different, sensations in different halves of my body -
water can feel hot on one side and cold on the other.
Due to the optic nerve damage I have patches in my periphery where
I can't see and I have poor convergence (I can't go 'cross eyed' so
close up things are double). One pupil is bigger than the other, so
in bright light and darkness I can't see well.
I have a moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears, coming from
my brain (not my ears!) not being able to process the sound I hear
- so I wear hearing aids, and I lip read rather well.
That being said - to look at me, and watch me in action, you
wouldn't be able to pick any of this.
I have pretty dodgy memory. I can remember useless things when I
don't need to, but as soon as I need to remember something
important it just goes. My nana reckons I have 'old person
syndrome'. My memories from childhood are mostly gone - I know the
stories, but my own recollections are patchy at best.
Fatigue is by far my worst enemy. When I get tired, my brain stops
working and my body stops doing as it is told. I have trouble
walking and talking, I cough and choke when eating and drinking,
and I get REALLY, REALLY cranky. I can go to sleep anywhere, any
time. I have been known to fall asleep in class, in music
rehearsals, in assembly at school, on the bus …. Anywhere!
When I had my first stroke in 2009, I was completely paralysed on
my left side. I had to learn to do EVERYTHING again - walk, talk,
swallow, dress myself, use a knife and fork, hold a pencil, write,
use scissors - everything. The doctors said I would never play
music again, especially not the violin.
I spent 12 months attending the Brain Injury Rehab unit at the
Mater hospital. I had to have a splint on my left hand to stop it
curling up, and had serial casting on both my legs. I still wear an
AFO splint on my left leg, to help it to be in the right place when
Brain Injury is not just about recovering from the physical
symptoms of having a stroke - it's a lifelong change that means
that your brain works differently now. There are some things I
can't do anymore, and some things I learned to do differently -
basically 'whatever works for me is fine'. I am constantly trying
to figure out ways to do things I can't do right now - like playing
the piano and the guitar, and playing the violin. My teachers work
very hard with me to find different ways to teach my brain to do
the things I want to do. It takes a LOT of work to learn to do new
things! This also makes me really tired. It is really worth it
At school, I have additional support, like extra revision, teacher
aid support, additional time to sit exams (because I process
information and write slowly), a special 'quiet room' to do exams
(minimal distraction), extended deadlines and a flexible timetable.
I do most of my work on a laptop because I find writing is very
tiring. I also have help with the physical side of attending
school, like providing storage for my books at school so I don't
have to carry such a heavy bag, making sure my classes are
accessible to me (stairs are a challenge), allowing me to move
between classes outside of bell times so I don't get jostled and
knocked over so much, etc.
I am currently studying senior (year 11 & 12) over 3 years
instead of the usual 2 years, so that I can focus on getting the
best marks I am capable of.
I participate in school sport activities in whatever way I can - I
have tried my hand at swimming, running cross country, doing PE and
fun runs - even though I am slow and awkward, they encourage me to
try everything and do my best.
I am a member of the school Orchestra, Capriccio strings, Celtic
strings and Advanced Celtic strings groups. I have elected not to
be in a choir this year (I can only do so much!). I have also been
a member of the Young Conservatorium string orchestras for the last
7 years (I am not participating this year). In the community, I
play with the Brisbane Celtic Fiddle Club. I have participated in
SHEP (Celtic), Creative Generations, and numerous other school and
I have some social challenges because I have a habit of saying the
wrong thing (sometimes mildly inappropriate things). Sentences
sound correct in my head, but they just come out wrong! I have
trouble following conversations in a group, especially in noisy
places. There can be a lot of information to process quickly, and
I'm not good at that. It can be funny - If I'm thinking about
something (usually singing a song in my head) and someone
interrupts me, my thoughts (often the words of a song) have a bad
habit of jumping right out of my mouth. Awkward!
Having a Brain Injury is hard - if someone has part of an arm or
leg removed, it can be seen. You can't easily see that part of my
brain no longer works. People often judge me negatively when I use
the disabled facilities (I don't necessarily look 'disabled' all
the time), or I stumble with my words, or I fall. That being said,
I have some really awesome friends who are both young like me, and
also adult friends. My friends don't judge - they accept me for who
Music is my passion. I have worked really hard to be able to play
my instruments again, and I fully believe that where there is a
will, there is a way to make it happen. I want to show the
community that just because you have a disability, doesn't mean
that you can't be a musician.
My bucket list (things I wish to do in my life) includes learning
to dance, learning to be a circus clown, travelling around the
world, win an ARIA award, attend all the Folk Festivals (in
Australia and overseas), see the snow, learn to ski/snowboard, and
climb a mountain (any mountain will do!).
My name is Aimee - I can do anything I put my mind to - I am