Life changed for Sharon af­ter accident with trailer

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART

As the All Blacks clashed with Ire­land on Satur­day night, Mata­mata woman Sharon Edge had big­ger worries than last-minute drop goals.

With each play, she was on the edge of her seat, ner­vous that one of the players might catch a knock to the head.

The sur­vivor of a trau­matic brain in­jury, Ms Edge couldn’t help feel­ing con­cern for the players not wear­ing head gear.

Fif­teen years ago, the avid rugby fan’s life was changed in an in­stant when she was struck in the head by a car trailer.

‘‘It was just a dent,’’ she said.

‘‘I was help­ing to turn the trailer ready for paint­ing and I slipped. It started com­ing to­wards me and the mud guard hit me right be­tween the eyes.’’

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, Ms Edge did not re­alise that any­thing was wrong and said she seemed to be in a state of shock.

‘‘I don’t re­mem­ber the drive home and I don’t re­mem­ber serv­ing ev­ery­one din­ner that night. It was like I was un­con­scious with­out any­one real­is­ing it.’’

The fol­low­ing day she woke up with a bad headache, took some pain killers and shook it off. ‘‘We had friends com­ing and we hadn’t seen them in ages so I didn’t want to can­cel,’’ she said.

By the end of the night the headaches were wors­en­ing, so Ms Edge once again took some pain killers and went to bed.

How­ever, when she woke

freak

acci- the next morn­ing some­thing was wrong.

‘‘ My fore­head was swollen that I could see she said.

‘‘I went to the doc­tor, who im­me­di­ately or­dered a CT scan.’’

The scan showed that the im­pact from the trailer had smashed her si­nus bone, which had pierced the lin­ing of her brain.

With her symp­toms rapidly wors­en­ing, she was sent for an MRI scan that re­vealed she had sus­tained a trau­matic brain in­jury.

‘‘ I had brain bleeds, and when the bleed­ing stopped I was left with scar tis­sue, which stops parts of my brain func­tion­ing as they used to.’’

Doc­tors were un­sure of the ex­tent or the com­plex­ity of the da­m­age but Ms Edge said the last­ing con­se­quences be­came ex­plic­itly clear over the first few months.

‘‘ My short term memory was badly af­fected. My house turned into sticky note city – there were sticky notes plas­tered ev­ery­where, re­mind­ing me to ‘turn off the tap’ or to ‘turn the lights off’.

‘‘ I would start mak­ing some­thing on the stove, then the phone would ring and I would com­pletely for­get and the pot would burn to a crisp,’’ she knew se­ri­ously so it,’’ she said. ‘‘I still have days where I drop things and my speech is not that great when I’m tired.

‘‘I dam­aged the area of my brain which con­trols move­ment so I get tremors and it takes me a long time to learn new faces.’’

Now 45, Ms Edge said she also strug­gled with a sig­nif­i­cant change in per­son­al­ity fol­low­ing the accident.

‘‘I went from be­ing quite shy to a bit cheeky with a big opin­ion. I started to get im­pa­tient re­ally quickly and had no prob­lem stand­ing up for my­self. For a while I didn’t like the new per­son and I didn’t have any con­trol over it. It took me a few years to stop fight­ing that part of my­self and ac­cept it.’’

The ad­just­ment was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for her five young chil­dren who missed their ‘‘old mum,’’ she said.

‘‘It was hard for them in the be­gin­ning be­cause I be­came dif­fer­ent. I would for­get to send them to school with lunch and things like that. The kids had to be­come my memory, although they ac­tu­ally told me re­cently that I used to cook them the same din­ner two or three nights in a row and they never said a word.’’

With a strong sup­port net­work of fam­ily and friends, Ms Edge has re­built her con­fi­dence and de­vel­oped a num­ber of cop­ing mech­a­nisms.

‘‘For ages I would get re­ally down on my­self if I for­got some­thing or some­thing went wrong but I don’t dwell on those things any­more. It has been hard and I know it still will be at times but I am just look­ing for­ward,’’ she said.

Lis­ten­ing to her favourite mu­sic, get­ting out into her gar­den and walk­ing com­pet­i­tively have be­come her way to deal with her in­jury.

While she is in a good place now, Ms Edge said it took her a long time to come to terms with her in­jury and she would like to help oth­ers in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

She is also de­ter­mined to help raise aware­ness around trau­matic brain in­juries.

‘‘If I could pre­vent it ever hap­pen­ing to any­one else, I would. I want peo­ple to be aware of the dan­gers of a head in­jury and to recog­nise the symp­toms [headache, clum­si­ness, ir­ri­tabil­ity and fa­tigue]. Some peo­ple pass knocks on the head off. No mat­ter how small, they should see a doc­tor straight away. I didn’t.’’

This Fri­day, June 22 is the THINK! Hats on Fri­day event, where busi­nesses around New Zealand are in­vited to have staff wear hats for the day to raise money for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

THINK! is a head in­jury net­work for Ki­wis which aims to raise aware­ness around the ‘‘silent epi­demic’’.

Ev­ery day in New Zealand at least 90 peo­ple suf­fer a brain in­jury and Ms Edge said it only took one small in­ci­dent to have ‘‘ your whole life changed for­ever’’.

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