The injury and diagnosis

It wasn’t my first triathlon. I’d recently returned from representing Australia in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Rotterdam a few months prior. I was fit. I was healthy. It came out of the blue.

The incident forced the shutdown of my digital marketing consulting business. I resigned as President of my local triathlon club. I relocated eight hours drive to live with my parents. I left behind my entire life and community.

I had never heard of an injury like mine. It took me over two years to discover what happened: a virus aggressively inflamed my central nervous system. It affected my memory, language, balance, hearing, listening, speaking. My blood pressure and heart rate dysfunctional due to a condition called Dysautonomia.

All these symptoms combined with vertigo, GI, hormonal, thyroid issues left me in a chronic state of ill health. I was additionally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

Due to the delay in receiving medical treatment, I spent longer in an acute phase of brain inflammation. My cognitive impairments meant I relied on communicating with simple YES and NO answers. With therapy, I have regained my speaking abilities.

The injury caused Central Auditory Processing Disorder which means I am unable to be in noisy places. Everyday sound – birds, lawnmowers, radio – gives me debilitating migraines. I am housebound with this invisible disability. When I venture out, I wear ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones but they don’t always work.

A new community

For an extrovert like me, my situation is excruciatingly lonely. I need to connect with people in order to stay sane. I started my blog ( to communicate with my family, friends and doctors. I shared my story with online forums and support groups. I have met people from all over the world. I made some amazing friends. I discovered a passion for writing I never knew existed. It is one of the gifts from my brain injury.

Through my writing, I found a whole new community. I realised I’m not alone. People who understand exactly what I experienced. It is these connections that give me the strength and persistence to progress forward.

I am hopeful for an improvement in my auditory processing functionality. My goal one day is to sit in a noisy cafe with a bunch of friends (post COVID, of course!).

Read more from Sarah

Sarah wrote Returning to the Fray for Brain Injury Awareness Week 2020.

Sarah blogs about her recovery from brain injury at