Kristyn Rourke shares her story during Brain Injury Awareness WeekPhotos

Life-changer: Kristyn Rourke, of Aberglasslyn, lost memories spanning a decade after suffering a brain injury in a car accident in 2014. She is sharing her story during Brain Injury Awareness Week. Picture: Simone De Peak.


ONE minute, Kristyn Rourke was droppingher fiance off at the train station.

10 years of memory lost CRASH: Kristyn Rourke was unconscious after the accident. Her Toyota Hilux plummeted off a bridge after she was hit at 200km/h. Picture: Supplied.

Starting again: Kristyn Rourke, pictured during her rehabilitation. She had to learn how to do things again, such as write, walk, speak and eat. Picture: Supplied.

BEFORE: This was Kristyn Rourke prior to the accident that changed her life. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: The scene of the accident. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: Kristyn Rourke had to learn to walk again. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: The scene of the accident. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: The scene of the accident. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: The car after the accident. Picture: Supplied.

CRASH: Learning to feed herself again. Picture: Supplied

AFTER: Kristyn still suffers injuries from the accident. Picture: Supplied.

TweetFacebook Life after a brain injury – Kristyn’s journey +10MORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappThe next,she was in a hospital bed, hearing about her ownlife as if it were a movie she had not yet seen.

Ms Rourkesuffered a severe traumatic brain injury when a car travellingat about 200km/h on the M1 at Morisset slammed into the back of her Toyota Hilux so hard it plummeted off a bridge into a small ravine.

“I’mlucky I survived,” Ms Rourke, of Aberglasslyn,told Fairfax Media.

Initially, she lost more than 10 years’ worthof memories, includingthe birth, and death, of her baby daughter, Olivia, in 2008.

“I’m happy to say I’ve had enough of those memories return to remember my daughter now,” she said.

“And enough to realise my foster son was not the 10-to-11 year old boy that I remembered –rather a 20-year-old man. And enough to remember that I did have a loving relationship prior to my injury.

“When thereare enormous parts of your life that are missing from your memory, it really is quite distressing, especially as you see the pain, hurt and disappointment in the faces of people who care so very much.”

The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident,Kayden James Lawson,of Killarney Vale, left Ms Rourke for dead and rode away on his skateboard before trying to hitchhike home, Gosford District Court heard in February.

Lawson is now serving afour-yearsentence for his role in the incident.

He wasdiagnosed with schizophrenia after the crash, with evidence suggestinghe was psychotic at the time.

Ms Rourke, now 41, said her“entire world” had changed since theaccident on November 10, 2014.

She was in hospital for five months, and has hadseven operations, with another to come.

She fatigues easily, has balance issues,and often strugglestoprocess information. She sometimeshas trouble with slurred speech, which has led to her being accused of intoxication.

Ms Rourke learned to accept help, and her social life hasbeen “pretty much non-existent.”

Therapy and rehabilitation sessions became the former property manager’sfull-time job, and herfive-year relationship fell apart.

“We’d become engaged a year to the day before my accident,” she said.

“That relationship didn’t last. The whole process was too much. Too much of a drain on emotions. It made merealisemy injury does not only impact me.”

On Monday, Ms Rourke returned to Bar Beach –where she used to go for rehabilitation – to share her story during Brain Injury Awareness Week.

“When I was an inpatient at Hunter Brain Injury Service, myphysio would take me to Bar Beach to walk on the sand for therapy, and I’d do my stretches and walk the stairs while overlooking the water,” she said.

Ms Rourke is behind theBrain Injury PerspectiveFacebook page, which she hopes will offersupport and insight for anyone dealing with the side effects of a brain injury.

She wanted to share her words, her thoughts, and what she had learned along the waywith others – whether they had suffered a brain injury themselves, or had a loved one who had.

“I had support from Lifetime Care arranging my therapy,and I had a support worker,” Ms Rourke said.

“But I wish there was some kind of instruction booklet that told you what you would need to deal with, ways to overcome the darkness that can sometimes loom overhead –that there would be times you’d really question your self worth.

“There were many things that you just had to feel your way through as best you could.”

Ms Rourke said she wanted to raise awareness of brain injury, because it was not always visible.

“There can be many unrealistic expectations. Judgements even,” she said.

“I still have my own down days, but I’ve come to realise that the sun shines again.”

Kristyn Rourke