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Cyclist tells how she could not remember husband or children after accident

Emma Feesey has spoken out about how a brain injury left her unable to remember if she was married or had children (Digby Brown/PA)
Emma Feesey has spoken out about how a brain injury left her unable to remember if she was married or had children (Digby Brown/PA)

A cyclist who was unable to remember her husband and children and even how a mobile phone worked after suffering serious head injuries when she was hit by a car has spoken about how her recovery has given her a new way of life.

Emma Feesey, 48, suffered a brain injury after being involved in an accident as as she cycled home from work.

When she came round she did not know if she was married, or had children – despite having two daughters with her husband Colin, 49.

But, almost five years on from the accident, she told how she had learned that “what matters is being happy, healthy and doing good things”.

The mother of two, from Edinburgh, said: “The important thing is survivors know that no matter how strange or hard things seem, life gets better.”

She spoke about her injuries, and her recovery from them, ahead of taking part in the Edinburgh Head Injury Information Day, hosted by the law firm Digby Brown.

At the time of her accident in August 2017, she was a criminal justice social worker and was cycling home from work when she was hit by a car at the Deans Roundabout in West Lothian.

Despite wearing a helmet, she suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage after her head struck the ground.

Emma Feesey has overcome a number of challenges since her injury and has even returned to cycling (Digby Brown/PA)

She was treated at the Western General hospital in Edinburgh for three days, before being transferred to the Astley Ainslie Hospital  in the capital, which offers specialist rehabilitation services for adults who have suffered brain injuries.

She recalled: “I was asked if I was married and I didn’t know. I was asked if I had children and, again, had no idea.”

Speaking about her husband, she said: “Colin was really worried,. Firstly, to think I died and then to realise I had no memory of him and the girls.”

But she added: “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.”

She continued: “I felt physically okay and I only knew I had a brain injury because people kept telling me I had one.”

However, the accident also left her unable to perform some tasks, such as sketching simple objects, and she failed to recognise her mobile phone.

She recalled that “everything was very slow and detached” after the crash.

Ms Feesey, who has daughters, Rosa, 26, and Zora, 24, continued: “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.”

She added that it took about three weeks for “everything to click into place” after the accident, saying that while the “constant questions” she was asked by medics had been “exhausting” they were also “part of the process to get your brain working and I’m thankful to have come through things”.

While she has retired from work on medical grounds, she now leads a yoga class, and has even been able to return to cycling, after overcoming PTSD-related flashbacks.

She stated: “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.”

Chris Stewart, partner at Digby Brown and host of the Head Injury Information Day,  spoke of his “great respect for Emma’s strength in talking about her journey”

He added: “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.”