Cork singer in TV star search: I feared I’d never walk after crash

Caroline Bailey, of Castlemartyr, is on Last Singer Standing on RTÉ1 tonight, Saturday, November 12
Cork singer in TV star search: I feared I’d never walk after crash

Caroline Bailey, of Castlemartyr, is on Last Singer Standing on RTE1 tonight.

CORK singer Caroline Bailey has had a rollercoaster year: she got engaged and suffered serious injury in a car crash.

Tonight (Saturday November 12) will see another high point, as the 33-year-old, who fronts five-piece band Sparkle with her partner Jen, is appearing on the talent show, Last Singer Standing on RTÉ1 at 8.15pm.

“It was a fantastic experience recording it,” says Caroline, who is recovering from a car crash in September when she broke her neck and her pelvis in three places and feared she might never walk again

Appearing on the RTÉ show is a big break for Caroline, of Castlemartyr.

“Our band appeared on Ireland’s Got Talent in 2019 and as a result we received an email about appearing on Last Singer Standing,” she explains. “I said ‘no way’ when Jen wanted me to sign up. 

"But when I knew Nicky Byrne from Westlife was hosting the show, I said, sign me up quick!

“Nicky is a really nice guy and a gentleman. He made all the contestants feel comfortable. He was having the craic about my Cork accent! I loved being part of the show, I normally don’t do competitions, but this was really great.

“All the competitors got on so well. It’ll seem strange to be on TV! I hope I come across well. Usually I’m very giddy!”

Caroline is making a good recovery from the accident with the help of Jen and her friends. 

“Jen is doing all in her power to keep us all happy,” says Caroline. “I have good people around me.”

She is confident she will walk again. 

“I’m starting physiotherapy soon to try and put weight on my right side and hope to be back on my feet and get back to performing on stage,” says Caroline, who is mum to Ellie, 9. 

“If I walk again for Christmas, it’ll be a great present.”

She is full of positivity. And full of surprises.

“I went down on one knee on stage to propose to Jen at Cork Pride Week at the Port Event on Kennedy Quay,” says Caroline. 

“She was really surprised but said yes! We met at a gig in 2014 when Jen was in another band. We became close friends when we joined the same band, then began seeing each other.

“I feel like I appreciate life so much more now,” adds Caroline. 

“I look at life differently. It’s mad how everything can be turned upside down in a split second. I’ve a totally different outlook on life. I don’t take anything for granted.

“When the accident happened, I thought, oh my God, I’m alive. When I saw the car, it was horrific. 

"I wondered how we came out alive. Ellie didn’t even have a scratch even though she was sore for a while. When I knew we were all alive, I was so grateful.”

Ellie proved a real-life hero at the scene of the crash in Castlelyons.

“I’m a consultant for Slimming World as well as a singer,” says Caroline. 

“I was travelling to Fermoy on the Monday evening to collect my cash-box from another girl for my class in the Glen on Tuesday. I looked up Google Maps and decided to take the back roads.”

At a crossroads in Castlelyons, the accident happened. Caroline’s car flipped over three times and landed on its roof, upside down. 

“It was horrific,” says Caroline. “Ellie was with me and she was so calm and listened to me.

“I told her to un-strap her seat-belt and climb out of the window on her side. I was stuck in my seat belt but managed to use my left side to climb out the passenger window. I don’t know where I got the strength from. Ellie stayed calm and asked me if I was OK. I didn’t know if the car was going to blow up or not,” says Caroline.

“All I knew was we needed to get out. Ellie kept her cool and listened to everything I had to say. That’s what got us out of the car. She is so amazing. 

"All I can think about is how lucky we are to be alive. All the locals who came upon the accident were so good to help us.

“Ellie wanted her toys and her glasses out of the car. One person found Snowy, her teddy, for her. Another found her glasses. Alan, a paramedic, and his wife, Yvonne, came to attend to us while we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I was fortunate I put the heavy cash box in the boot instead of in the back seat. If that was flying around it would be dangerous,” says Caroline.

“The box landed on the ditch and the money spilled out everywhere. The people who helped us were so lovely.”

What was going through her head for that hour and a half awaiting the ambulance? 

“I thought, will I ever walk again? I was so grateful Ellie was OK and I was alive. Nobody could tell me the extent of my injuries when we got to the hospital and the medical team sought a second opinion from Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.

“Four of five days later it was decided not to operate, that my pelvis would heal itself and the neurologist was happy for me to wear a neck brace for 12 weeks. After a week, I was told I would walk again. That was a worry, I was relieved. I was in pain, but I said thank God I could feel the pain, I realised I was still alive. The neck pain was awful. The second day was awful. 

"I was on the flat of my back before I used the Zimmer-frame and took a few steps. The doctors and nurses at CUH were amazing. Ellie’s dad and Jen looked after Ellie. Even though I missed her First Communion, they were all able to call up to the hospital to see me.

“I thought, what if I can’t perform like I used to? I used to be so energetic on stage. I still have that fear I won’t be as mobile as I would like. I worry is there long-lasting damage in years to come, even though I’m progressing really well.”

Caroline is planning her wedding too.

 “I was to book it in the Charleville Park hotel that Tuesday. The crash happened on Monday evening. So those plans went down the swanny. We’re looking at November in two years’ time.”

Singing is in her blood. “My dad was a one-man band and played guitar. My mum, who passed away when I was 12, had a great voice and used to sing around the house.

“There was always music in our house. I used to sing in the school choir and I love karaoke. I sing anything by Celine Dion. Dad used to set up a microphone at home and Mum used to say, ‘pretend you are in the Opera House’. I said, some day I will be.”

Caroline lost six stone and became a Slimming World Consultant, and runs classes in the Glen Boxing Club. So positive and so bubbly, she wants to live life to the full.

“I want to be alive for all the things Ellie will do. I want to be around until she’s 90!” laughs Caroline. 

“I feel like the luckiest person in the world. The outcome could have been millions of times worse.”

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