Donna has come a long way since coming close to death when in
hospital. Synapse interviewed Donna about her long journey since
acquiring her brain injury.
How did you acquire your brain
I'd been injecting drugs on and off for about eight years. I did
six months in drug rehab at the Gold Coast but just sat there and
didn't listen to what the counsellors were telling me. I moved
through different jobs and ended up with pneumonia and didn't know
how sick I was. I went out and scored for my 29th birthday and came
home to shoot up. I must have fallen backwards and hit my head in
the edge off my bed and knocked myself out. I must have vomited and
it got caught in my airways because of the pneumonia. This limited
air to my brain and so I got a hypoxic Acquired Brain Injury.
If you could turn back time what would you do
That is an easy question to answer. Not take drugs in the first
place, and I'd surround myself with more good friends.
What have been your challenges along your
road to recovery?
Learning to walk, still haven't cracked that one but I am getting
close. Another big one in the early days was learning to talk
again, and anyone who knows me knows that I like to talk! I also
struggle with the fact that I can not think as quick on my feet as
I use to, and the frustration and depression because I appear the
same as everyone else except for my wheelchair. Making new friends
who don't judge you for your disability but love you for who you
are is another challenge. Having a disability can be very
What is the biggest issue facing people
living with a brain injury?
Acceptance from the general community and the ignorance that comes
along with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Transport and general
access in the community is another, especially if you have trouble
walking or are in a wheelchair. If you don't receive a payout from
an accident, the general cost of having a disability, let alone an
ABI, is high. For example wheelchairs are not cheap, and if you
depend on one for your mobility, as I do, and it needs repairs then
that's very stressful. Meeting a potential new partner if you are
not already in a relationship is next to nil chance. Even being in
some sort of social group becomes difficult after ABI.
Does a brain injury affect family and
My relationship with my family, especially my father, has had its
ups and downs but he has always been there when I need him. He is
still wary of things I do and how much money I spend, but that is
understandable considering how I got my brain injury. All in all my
family is supportive, and it helps that my stepmother and
stepsister are nurses. When I was in hospital my stepmother was
able to ask the appropriate medical questions and give my father
the correct information.
Is community access important to
Yes! I live by myself, so I do most of the grocery shopping and
other domestic activities myself. I don't drive and can't walk as
yet, so my manual wheelchair gets me to the same places as an
able-bodied person. The only form of public transport I use, but
not on a regular basis, is the river ferries and the trains. I have
never tried the buses because I need a low-floor bus and those are
not on every route.
What are your goals for the
To be able to walk and not use my wheelchair. - I don't mind if I
have to use an elbow crutch or a walking stick. I'd like to drive
again too. But first I have to lose a bit of weight. I would like
to be in a relationship, or be married with a child. I would also
like to find an enjoyable part-time job in the disability industry,
or helping people in some way.
What role does Synapse have in your
One of my greatest achievements so far is being a proud Board
Member of Synapse. I can bring the perspective of someone with a
brain injury to the Board of Management and therefore have a say in
making policies. The staff are so supportive, every time I face an
emotional hurdle I know I can ring someone and they will listen.
They are a big part of my life.
Is it hard for people with a disability to
It's hard for those of us with an obvious disability as people see
the wheelchair first not the person who is in it. They say a brain
injury is the invisible disability which would be the case for me
except for the wheelchair. My best friend often comments that if it
wasn't for my wheelchair she would not know I have an ABI, which is
the biggest compliment of all.
I haven't dated since I got my injury. I just don't frequent the
pubs, clubs and all the usual places you'd meet someone. I would
like to find Mr Right but I'm on the shy side, knowing it's hard to
meet people who see beyond the wheelchair to the nice, funny,
generous person I am. I don't honestly see a way this can be
improved. It's hard enough to find friends or partners when you are
able-bodied, let alone when you have a disability.
This is an abridged version of the full interview with Donna
which you can read in
Bridge Magazine - The True Cost of a Brain Injury