“She would bite, spit, she set my hair on fire. It was almost like she wasn’t human,” Bev said.
“We used to sit home and cry after we put her to bed and wonder how we would ever get through it.
“Brain injury is the hidden road toll. With death, you bury someone and you can grieve. But when it’s serious injury and it changes a person – you can’t do that.”
Neurologist Dr Ramesh Sahathevan says brain trauma can impact every aspect of a person’s life. Depending on the trauma, they can develop conditions like epilepsy and have memory problem.
“Imagine your body is a computer. Your brain is the CPU – if that becomes damaged the computer doesn’t work as well. Messages don’t get through and it becomes difficult to care for yourself, to dress yourself, to bathe yourself,” Dr Sahathevan said.
How well a person recovers depends on the neuroplasticity of their brain – that means the ability of other parts of the brain to take over the function that the damaged part can no longer perform. A person who has frontal lobe damage is more likely to experience personality change.
“A change of personality may not just be linked to injury to the brain itself. Imagine you are a young 25-year-old, out having a good time with friends. Two months later you wake up in coma and can't move. There are many psychological effects,” he said.
Rhiannon has really short term memory. She has no control over her left hand and has to be prompted to do anything. Sometimes she has terrible mood swings.
This is why Bev and Rhiannon speak to school students.
“I want to stop it from happening to everyone else. I’m lucky that I have close family. I’ve lost all my friends.”
While the medical community is continuing to learn more about the brain, doctors remain concerned that young people are not aware of the risks of dangerous behaviour and motor vehicle accidents.
“I don’t think young people think they are ever going to be involved in accident. They think - ‘I know how to handle my car, I know how to my handle a drink’. Accidents are the furthest from their mind,” Dr Sahathevan said.
“They need information, they’re all not indestructible. This is what could to happen.”
Bev and Rhiannon don’t sugar coat brain injury. They tell the students the nitty gritty.
“It’s good for the kids to see. Everyone is the same – you read about road trauma in the paper and once you read that paper you close it and forget about it,” Bev said.
“The kids see Rhiannon and they get it."
Rhiannon is lucky, she says. She met Matt a year after the accident and they were married six years ago. Matt doesn’t know what Rhiannon was like before the accident, he hadn’t met her. Sometimes dealing with her mood swings is hard. But Matt loves her. They hope to start a family
“Rhiannon has good days and bad days. On her best day Rhiannon is a normal person, on her worst it’s hard. I didn’t know her before the accident so I can’t compare personality wise,” Matt said.
Bev has one message to kids who take risk with their lives.
“Don’t feel pressured. If you get in a car with someone they have your their in the hands. We want to get to people before they get their lives torn apart,” Bev said.
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