The road accident that changed my life

When she was hit by a car, Rosalin Blue didn’t realise the long-term effect it would have on her. She tells SHAMIM MALEKMIAN about her recovery and the poetry readings she is doing in Cork this weekend
The road accident that changed my life
Rosalin Blue perfoming her poetry

THE day Rosalin Blue got hit by a car on her way to work, she was in the midst of a very busy life.

The Cork woman was a project assistant at the time, doing poetry and translation on the side, while also a mother to her then 10-year-old daughter, Kaya.

Even as the car sent her flying into the air, even as she hit her head so hard that her brain “got whacked into my skull”, she was still thinking about getting to work.

So, when the panic-stricken driver offered her a lift to the hospital, she replied: “Look, I just want to go to work.”

Rosalin, who was perhaps in a state of shock at the time, adds: “I thought it was just a little wound. So, I actually went to work right after.

“I was bleeding from my chin, so when I went to work and saw the bleeding, I went on to hospital.”

After being sent home, Rosalin’s seizures started.

“I remember going to bed with a headache, and I don’t remember much after that,” she says.

“My partner remembers more, he heard me screaming, he saw me rolling my eyes, going blue, he had to revive me a couple of times, but I only remember the headache.”

Between that night and when Rosalin fully regained consciousness, there is a sizeable void in her memory, an unfathomable gulf in which she briefly lost her ability to speak German, her native tongue.

Rosalin had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury; she was 39.

Research reveals that symptoms of brain injury may not immediately manifest themselves, and signs of damage can begin to emerge days later.

Headache, nausea, dizziness, unsteady balance and changes in attention and memory are typical, initial symptoms of brain damage. Traumatic brain injuries are also linked to an increased risk of dementia, according to a Danish study.

While “rebuilding” herself after the incident, it got worse for Rosalin. She received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2016.

Although the cancer was caught early and treated, Rosalin worries that her daughter has been affected by her mother’s health issues.

“Kaya was just 10 when the brain injury happened, I think it left a huge trauma with her,” Rosalin reasons.

“And when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, she closed up again, you know, the threat of losing the mother yet again.”

While the recovery period from a brain injury can put a significant strain on the patient’s physical and mental health, seeking employment after rehabilitation may also prove challenging.

For someone as hard-working as Rosalin, the latter issue was doubly upsetting.

“There is a six-year gap on my CV and I’m also 45 now, it would be interesting to see how I can convince an employer to take me on,” she explains.

Richard Stables, an information manager at Headway Ireland, a non-profit organisation supporting people with acquired brain injury with branches in Cork, Dublin, and Limerick, says that securing employment is a daunting issue for people who use their services.

“We reach out to employers, we have professional specialists who are liaising with employers all the time to raise awareness,” he says.

Describing the notion of turning down a potential employee over a brain injury as “discriminatory”, Richard stresses the importance of highlighting the “invisible” struggles of such patients.

“Often, following brain injury, people have difficulty tolerating very noisy environments.

“It might be the case that someone worked in a very busy environment before, but now they might find it very challenging to go back to that environment,” he explains.

Rosalin, whose translation work includes the love poems of German poet August Stramm, recalls being able to carry out flawless live interpretation before, and explains how her life has changed since the accident.

“Multi-tasking, like listening to one language and relaying in another, is very difficult for me now.

I used to be able to do it almost parallel to the person speaking,” she says.

Richard stresses that brain injury is a hidden disability, and lack of physical symptoms may lead to painful misunderstanding in the workplace.

He calls on employers to be conscious of accommodating such workers in their journey back to working life.

Rosalin, herself a service user at Headway Cork, reasons that the State should continue offering disability allowance to workers with brain injury for some time during their “transitioning” period at work.

Richard agrees.

“That is something that we would feel very strongly about, we are very much in favour of Government support for gradual return to work,” he says.

For now, Rosalin, who is an adept spoken word performer, keeps busy with poetry.

She is set to perform a few of her poems at an upcoming event entitled Many Tongues Of Cork, which has been organised by women’s rights activist and magazine founder Joanna Dukkipati.

Poets will perform some of their poems in their native tongues at the event, to celebrate Cork’s diverse, poetic spirit.

The event will take place tomorrow, August 17, and on Wednesday, August 21, at the city’s library, to mark Heritage Week.

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