Life after traumatic brain injury: “It took me over a year to find out I had been in an accident” | Australian books

Life after traumatic brain injury: “It took me over a year to find out I had been in an accident” |  Australian books

CArolyn Lanner Pryor was a perfectionist growing up. She was restless, hungry, and had an independent spirit. It was this motivation that led her to leave her native Brazil after graduating from university and move to Sydney. She followed her dream of living in Bondi and began traveling the world with her boyfriend.

“I felt like I wanted to be perfect in every aspect,” Brewer tells The Australian Guardian. “I wanted to be better at everything, including friends, partners, or work. I always wanted to be perfect.

“But now (I’m) not so worried.”

Prior was vacationing in Dubrovnik, Croatia, before the accident

Her life radically changed course while on vacation in Spain in September 2019, when she stepped off a curb on her way to breakfast — and crashed into the path of a car.

First, her head hit the windshield of the car, before her body flew into the air. The force was so great that her shoes and phone were thrown to both sides of the street, only to be picked up by strangers passing by.

Brewer doesn’t remember any of this, of course. Speaking via Zoom alongside Bradley Taylor Greif, the best-selling author of Penguin Bloom and The Blue Day Book, she explains how the pair set about piecing together the pieces of her story – including the accident itself – for their new book, Broken Girl.

Pryor is in Lisbon while Taylor Greif is in Los Angeles, and as they slowly break down my questions and experience into small, manageable chunks, they reveal — in a small way — how they were able to piece together her story over the course of two years and a year. -Half a year and thousands of messages sent back and forth across time zones. Written from Pryor’s point of view, the result is a book that is often mysterious and atmospheric, with a deliberately unreliable narrative voice. Grief distributes to the reader breadcrumbs of detail and memory, just as Pryor experienced it herself.

Paramedics placed Pryor into an artificial coma, and at a Barcelona hospital she was diagnosed with a third-degree diffuse axonal injury. Doctors gave her a 5% chance of survival, with a high probability that she would remain in a permanent vegetative state even if she succeeded.

Pryor is in a wheelchair and learning how to use her legs again while her mother stays close by in case she needs help. Photo: Carolyn Lanner Pryor

In their book, Taylor Griff and Pryor rely on official reports and witness accounts to fictionally recreate what happened next, while Pryor lay in a hospital bed. If she was a work of art, as the book says, it was “Botero meets Hieronymus Bosch,” while her mind “walks the line between this dimension and the next.”

They explain how damage to the left half of her brain led to her developing Wernicke’s aphasia, a disorder of language and understanding, and how she had to learn from scratch all the things she had previously taken for granted. The simple act of using her hands became like “asking five caterpillars to pick up a spoon.”

After being discharged from the hospital, she faced a relentless cycle of physical therapy, facial paralysis rehabilitation, personal training, speech therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, and sleep therapy.

Her life had changed, but it took some time to settle in; As her brain slowly rewired itself, she often forgot about the accident and her ongoing recovery.

“I didn’t even know I was in an accident, it took me over a year to find out,” Brewer says. “And by then, I personally felt 100% better, you know? I was perfect.”

Pryor, who still cannot use her right arm, feeds herself candy to gain weight before her final brain surgery.

Through others’ reactions to the obvious changes in her appearance and behavior, she begins to fully appreciate what she has been through and her new reality. “I didn’t know that people could see me (differently) in the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I talk.” all road.”

Skip the previous newsletter promotion

After eventually returning to Australia, she was also struck by the loneliness that might be apparent to everyone except her. He left her feeling invisible and forgotten.

“I feel like a lot of people eventually left me, because they saw that I wasn’t going to grow; that I was always going to be like this, you know?

Feeling frustrated and isolated in her adopted home, she returned to Barcelona three years after the accident to visit the accident site and the hospital where she spent months unconscious.

While her friends in Australia struggled to reconcile the Caroline in front of them with her friend who had left for Europe years earlier, the staff and doctors who had been by her side during her treatment and recovery knew all too well what she had been through, and how far she had come – even if her memory loss meant they were strangers. Actually about it.

“It was amazing… They were smiling and feeling happy, and it was almost like I was a celebrity, even though I didn’t know them. Of course, I knew them when I was in a coma, or when I was trying to walk and talk, but they remember me very well.” “And they were very happy to see me.”

They asked her if she wanted to see the room that had been taken care of months ago. “I said, ‘Yes, of course,’” Brewer says. “But it didn’t bring me any memories – I can’t remember anything.”

She and Griff become like detectives looking into clues to her private life. It was tempting to put life before the accident on a pedestal, but when her memories came back, and she remembered the password to her old laptop, she was reminded that her old life wasn’t always perfect.

“It was a little revealing, like knowing my password, or pictures I used to take, or receipts,” she says.

Pryor had previously imagined her life as happy, but these details revealed a more complex truth. “I thought, ‘That was great, I had a lot of friends, blah blah,'” she says. But then she discovered that “that wasn’t really the case.” Her mother told her that she was depressed, and that she wasn’t really happy.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says, feeling directionless after the accident.

She struggled to put her old life, friendships and work back together in Sydney, so she decided to start over. In early 2023 she moved to Portugal with her cat Sandy.

“In Bondi and Sydney where I was, I felt like I had a tattoo on my forehead that said ‘brain injury’ or ‘accident.’ “I felt like I had that stigma,” she says.

Image: Hachette

Before her accident, Pryor had little appreciation for the small, earth-shattering ways life can change after a traumatic brain injury. Working with Greif became a way of demystifying the experience for her and readers, and an act of hard-won defiance on her part – to make the world “not forget” about her.

“There are definitely some days where I feel like I’m definitely a broken girl, because I’ve made a lot of mistakes, whether it’s brain injury related or not. But there are other times when I don’t feel so broken.

“It’s been four and a half years, and I feel perfect the way I am now.”

You may also like...

Leave a Reply