When I was only 15 years old I was sent for a scan on my sinus that turned out to be a brain tumour. I’d had blurry vision, morning headaches and facial pain and when I was diagnosed, they told me it was low grade. Five years later, doctors told me the tumour was getting bigger and that it would have to come out.
I wasn’t really taking it in
Like any 20 year old, I was more concerned about my friend’s 21st birthday party. I didn’t really pay any heed to the seriousness of my situation – that I was going to have brain surgery. I remember I went in laughing to the anaesthetic room. But I was oblivious about what was ahead of me. When I woke up after surgery my left side was paralysed and I thought it was the anaesthetic wearing off. It’s still surreal to think that I was actually paralysed.
From wheelchair to walking
I left hospital in a wheelchair and started intensive physiotherapy programmes. Every day I did about 4 or 5 hours of physio. I think I was in survival mode because I never wanted to believe I couldn’t walk. I struggled to understand what had happened to me. If I couldn’t understand what I was going through, how could friends understand? I felt very alone and felt as though I didn’t have many people on the outside who understood.
I was in denial about my brain injury
After lots of physio, I managed to walk again but now I had a limp and left side weakness. Before my injury I loved cycling and I was keen to get back to it. But after my injury it was hard to accept that I needed to rest. I wouldn’t accept that I was different and I pushed myself very hard. It wasn’t until I did work experience in a Montessori School that it really hit me. I struggled with balance bending over young children and my concentration was really poor. When I had to do jigsaws with the children, I found them hard to do.
Sensory overload was a big thing
When all the children arrived in the mornings with all the noise and chaos, that was difficult for me. My brain was having to work harder to do normal things and I was absolutely fatigued. That was when I really came to accept that I had a brain injury.
New lease of life
I was a very sociable person before my brain injury but afterwards, I really lost my confidence. I didn’t want to leave the house. But now thanks to the Wexford Clubhouse with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, I have a new lease of life. I’ve rebuilt my confidence to get out and about on day trips with the clubhouse. I even started aqua aerobics and it’s now one of my favourite things. I’ve started building connections with people and I’m able to do things that I never would have done.
I wouldn’t change a thing
Brain injury recovery is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you’ll ever do in your life. It has taught me to listen to my body. It has taught me acceptance. Every time I share my story, I am healing myself another bit more. To other young people like me, I say: “You have survived a brain injury, you are not defeated, wear your scars with pride, be proud.”
Roisin attends our Wexford Clubhouse where she sees her friends every week. She continues to work on managing fatigue and building personal connections that make a strong support network for the future. She also shared her story with the Irish Independent to help raise awareness of brain injury which is often invisible to many.