A cyclist hit by a car woke from a coma with no memory of her husband or children.
Emma Feesey, 48, suffered a brain injury after being struck as she cycled home from work in 2017.
The mum-of-two woke with few memories. She was even unable to draw a giraffe or work her mobile phone.
But the Edinburgh woman, who has since made a full recovery, hopes sharing her journey will help other brain injury survivors embrace their new way of life.
She said: “The important thing is survivors know that no matter how strange or hard things seem, life gets better.”
Emma was cycling home from her work as a criminal justice social worker when a car hit her at Deans Roundabout in West Lothian.
Emma – who was wearing a helmet at the time – sustained a subarachnoid haemorrhage and a midline shift after her head struck the ground.
She was treated at the Western General for three days before being moved to the Astley Ainslie Hospital elsewhere in the capital which specialises in serious injuries.
But despite waking and feeling good she knew things weren’t right.
She recalled: “Someone asked where I lived – I knew the street but not the number.
“I was asked if I was married and I didn’t know. I was asked if I had children and again had no idea.”
In fact, Emma was supported by husband Colin, 49, and their two daughters Rosa, 26, and Zora, 24.
Thankfully, Emma’s memory returned over the coming weeks – as did her connections to her husband and kids.
She added: “Colin was really worried – firstly to think I died and then to realise I had no memory of him and the girls.
“Then when I remembered my husband and my daughters I wanted them there all the time.
“I’d think ‘I love Colin. Colin should be here. I want to see Colin.’ There is a simplicity to your thoughts when going through trauma.
“I felt physically okay and I only knew I had a brain injury because people kept telling me I had one.”
Emma faced challenges during her recovery, from being unable to sketch simple objects to forgetting how to operate her mobile phone.
She continued: “Everything was very slow and detached.
“I remember finding a ‘communication device’ near my bed. I now know it was my phone but at the time it was just a thing I thought would help me document things.
“It took me ages to type anything – I just kept taking photos of my own face – and when I did finally manage I unknowingly posted it to Facebook which caused a commotion.
“But I was most frustrated when I was asked to draw a clock and a giraffe.
“With the clock I drew the number one, put in a few other numbers and drew a shape around them and with the giraffe I drew it like a horse with a long neck – but the hospital wasn’t satisfied.
“It was about three weeks for everything to click into place. The constant questions and tasks are exhausting but they are obviously part of the process to get your brain working and I’m thankful to have come through things.”
Emma is now retired on medical grounds – but hosts a yoga class under the moniker Wild Hare and is focused on bringing positivity to her life and the lives of others.
She has even been able to return to cycling after overcoming PTSD-related flashbacks. The driver who knocked her from her bike was not prosecuted.
Emma said: “I’ve learned through all this – especially during the pandemic – that what matters is being happy, healthy and doing good things.
“I look after myself and focus on my yoga and other workshops and I still cycle when I can.
“The hardest part is simply adjusting to a new life. Getting to know and embrace your new trajectory is something an acquired brain injury survivor will at some point have to deal with.
“But this is me and I have a nice life. I’m generally – and genuinely – happy in my world.
“If I could offer any advice to anyone it’s to not caveat yourself or apologise for what you’ve survived and experienced. Caveats might help others but not yourself.
“Brain injury survivors shouldn’t need to caveat themselves so the key is to help people understand everyone is different and has different things going on in their lives.”
Emma will recount her story to other survivors of brain trauma and their families at an information event supported by lawyers Digby Brown in Edinburgh on Wednesday May 11.
The event, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, also hosts brain injury services and can guide those who have suffered traumatic head injuries towards services and support.
Chris Stewart, Partner at Digby Brown and host of the Head Injury Information Day, said: “I have great respect for Emma’s strength in talking about her journey.
“We help people like Emma and her family every day so we know it matters that other survivors have inspiration to draw on as they continue with their own recovery.”
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