Caitlin's story

“I’m a much better physiotherapist for having been a patient myself and have come to realise just how physically and mentally strong I can be,” Caitlin said, just a year on from her accident.

“A ski trip in August 2019 left me with a severe traumatic brain injury. It was the last run of the day, a green run, and I was wearing a helmet. A bad stack resulted in a brain injury that left my entire left side paralysed and me in hospital over five months.

“As a physio myself, I knew my rehab/recovery journey would be a long one. I had unwavering support from my family and friends and the team of doctors, nurses and therapists caring for me did an incredible job. I never once felt alone, and I had every opportunity to play an active role in my recovery.”

Moving forward

Caitlin’s injury didn’t diminish her personal and professional ambition, but instead motivated her to help others navigate life after TBI.

“For me, moving forward is about resilience; about making the most of every chance I get to use my injury and recovery for something positive. I have done this in the form of university lectures for physiotherapy students, seminars for health professionals, and even by writing a book outlining everything I’ve learnt from my recovery and rehab journey.

“Writing a book actually started out as a running joke with a therapist at rehab! I wrote some notes in my phone, then typing became part of my upper limb rehab, so I expanded on those notes and voila! A book was born.”

The Invisible Disability

Personal fulfilment aside, Caitlin’s work is designed to shine a light on some of the most challenging and commonly experienced issues facing the brain-injured community.

“The reality of brain injury is that it is very much an ‘invisible disability’. People see you going about your everyday life and assume you’re just like everyone else. This is a compliment to my recovery, I guess but, at the same time, it provides daily challenges.

“One Monday morning at work, with my new characteristic spastic hemiplegic gait, I hobbled up some stairs only to be greeted at the top by another member of staff with a big cheeky grin remarking, “well someone had a big weekend, didn’t they love?”.

“Assuming that as a young healthy person, I must just be nursing a nasty hangover, he carried on with his day but his words stuck with me. At the time I laughed along with this remark, but it was and is frustrating for me to have people continually belittle the challenges I still have physically.

“That’s not to say that I want to be treated differently or be pitied, but I really appreciate when people do things to make it easier for me. People walking on my left side, for example, so I can use the right rail on the stairs, or helping me open fiddly packaging. Those are the subtle things that don’t make a big deal of my impairments, but instead are genuinely helpful.

“My injury has shown me that in life there will always be lemons, but it is so important to make lemonade from whatever challenges or bitterness life throws your way. There is always lemonade to be made.”