Suzanne "barbie" Lynam

Dad died when 1 was eighteen, one of the last things 1 remember him saying to me was "don't ride a motorcycle". "Why not?" 1 thought 1 was young and my brother had a bike and he was just being sexist cos nothing would happen to me.

1 was on my way to work a year later and not even a quarter of a mile from home when it did happen though. 1 don't remember this bit, the woman did a "u-turn" in the road, knocked me off, and although 1 was underneath the car she did not stop. Fortunately a doctor lived nearby and gave me some injection to quieten me down until the police lifted the vehicle and 1 was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Mum tells me 1 had brain stem injuries, "brain shearing" that was caused when my helmet got trapped under the sump of the car. She claims 1 even walked into hospital myself, but apparently 1 was unrecognisable to Keith, my boyfriend, who was the first to see me on the ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Mum had to travel from the other end of the U.K. to see me. She says it never occurred to her that 1 wouldn't get better, and looking back she says the lack of medical intervention was the best thing that happened. You see, when they had taken a scan of my brain it was all black, and doctors said there was no point. 1 would just be a vegetable. As it was 1 went through various different stages of recovery, one side of my body still, the other thrashing constantly.

1 had the accident eighteen months after dad died. 1 thought it was a dream. Everything was so unreal, totally unlike the lifestyle 1 had been enjoying. 1 eventually realised it must be reality because it was just going on so long. Mum came to hospital to see me every day, so did Chris my brother and my boyfriend too.

One of the first memories it the embarrassment 1 felt when 1 had to ask a nurse to cut up my food because 1 couldn't control the knife and fork. Oh! and turning a banana to mush because 1 couldn't control my hand and it was squeezed through my fingers. Everyone was so understanding. At that time one of the most frustrating things was doing everything so slowly. You see 1 wanted to learn to walk, talk and to do everything again overnight, when last time it had taken nineteen years.

1 was in three different hospitals altogether, but after six weeks 1 can just remember begging the doctor to be allowed home because 1 hated it in there. Mum and 1 spent the next year or so together throughout the whole of every day. 1 slept such a lot, went to physiotherapy daily and learned to live life again. We went to the local swimming pool, just for ten minutes at first; to where 1 worked for the odd hour to try and use the computer; and even on holiday to Greece in that first year.

Less that a year later 1 passed my driving test and got a car, no more bikes for me although 1 had been pillion a few times. You see 1 know that most bike accidents are caused, like mine, by cars, and 1 felt so safe behind Chris. 1 went back to work soon after and stopped going to physiotherapy. Everything was now going so quickly. 1 was even able to get a new job on being made redundant, although colleagues did wonder why the company doctor took so much time with me! Soon after 1 bought my own flat and moved in alone.

A year or so later 1 was married to John, a man 1 met through work. That lasted five years, during which my ambition and personality changed, or developed again, immensely. 1 didn't work, and this left me bored so 1 turned my attention to an ambition 1 made in those days in the hospital when 1 couldn't talk or walk properly. 1 was going to get a degree. Problem was though that 1 couldn't handwrite due to a lack of fine coordination. My thinking about this was "if 1 could learn to type 1 could do a degree too", so 1 set about teaching myself.

The first year 1 did an Open University foundation course and was then offered a place at a local university. John's response to that was "what do you want a degree for?" He couldn't see it was for me. 1 left him and went back to Mum! Three years later 1 got my degree, the proudest moment was getting it awarded in Leeds Town Hall with the cap and gown on.

1 got remarried to Ken who 1 know does accept me for what 1 am. 1 am independent and like to feel in control, 1 do still get very emotional and tired too. Unfortunately 1 get bad headaches if 1 overdo it, but this is helped by my being able to work from home in a split shift system which allows me to rest during the day. My headaches also seem to diminish when 1 do my weekly exercise at the local gym.

Having lived life for fifteen years with the legacy of head injuries seems such a long time. Mum says, 'It is a miracle helped by my hard work, but you just do what you have to don't you? 1 have even tried the unbelievable, to ride a bike again, and yes, what they say about riding a bike is correct, you never forget how to do it! 1 was so determined to ride again but we all have limitations don't we? Although there was nothing physically stopping me riding 1 was just so scared. My unconscious mind would not let me relax, and 1 decided to "hand the towel in" . Much to the relief of those dear to me I'm sure!

Fifteen years ago I'd never heard of head injuries. Now 1 have a good reason for finding out as much about them as possible and the media does seem to be developing a healthy awareness in others too. This is the only way for many people to realise that just because some people look OK they may have problems. To me head injuries are a way of life, and recovery has come through living life to the best of my abilities.

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