At the age of nine, Imogen Cauthery was crossing the road with her mother, when she was hit by a car.
The driver, who was speaking on the phone at the time, didn’t even stop to check if she was alive, as he drove off immediately after the incident.
She sustained a major brain injury, the effects of which she has continued to deal with well into her adult life.
I had a brain haemorrhage on the spot
Imogen was crossing the road with her mum when the incident happened.
“I stepped out into the road and I can’t remember much else.” She said. “I had a brain haemorrhage on the spot and was taken to Whittington Hospital where my brain was cooled and I was put into a coma for nine days.
“The brain scans showed I had sustained a lot of damage to my hippocampus, which greatly affected my spatial awareness and memory. I spent four weeks recovering at Great Ormond Street Hospital, before finally returning home - but not to my old life.”
When Imogen returned home she had to come to terms with the effects of the epilepsy and her new learning difficulties.
She said: “I used to be the top of the class at school, but following the accident, my memory problems, and struggles with reading and writing, caused me to end up right at the bottom. My epilepsy meant I had to stop cycling and swimming too which was really hard to take and I suffered from depression.
Imogen said the accident also greatly changed her relationships with her family.
“My home life was transformed. My parents became really overprotective and that led to a fraught relationship between me and my sister. It heavily restricted my independence as a teenager.
“I only really got to experience the kind of independence people find in their teenage years during my twenties.”
Now 29 years old and living in Bath, Imogen still suffers as a result of her injury, having to deal with chronic epilepsy, which has limited her opportunities of finding employment.
She said: “I am still dealing with the physical effects, most painfully, epilepsy. Epilepsy is the absolute worst; it’s as unpredictable as life itself. I often feel as though it’s misunderstood by lots of people.
“Although my brain injury has limited my employment opportunities, I keep busy with lots of volunteer work. I volunteered with Headway’s East London group for a year, which involved cooking, playing games, day trips and more, and it helped to improve my confidence.”
Telling my story gave me the confidence to move forward
Imogen believes a turning point came when she became involved working with the road safety charity Brake, to help raise awareness of the issue in the media.
She said: “I had suddenly gained a huge amount of media attention and finally my story was being heard. The journalists would tell me what a great speaker I was and I really felt like I’d gained my independence and confidence; I had a voice.
“Confidence is really the greatest thing on Earth. It’s given me the determination to prove people like my parents wrong. I’ve done all kinds of things, like volunteering with Elephants in Sri Lanka and climbing Ben Nevis.”
Next year, Imogen plans to take another volunteering trip in Uganda. She continues to raise awareness about brain injury and road safety, recently interviewing again for Road Safety week 2016.
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