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'I went from a wife to a carer overnight'

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"On that day my life changed forever, and without any warning, I became a single mother, a carer, and a silent victim of the accident."

On the 17th of July 2010, while visiting my family in Belgium with my 10-month-old daughter, I received a phone call from my father-in-law telling me that my husband, Darryl, had been involved in a serious motorbike accident.

Doctors at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital had given him less than a 1 per cent chance of survival. On that day my life changed forever, and without any warning, I became a single mother, a carer, and a silent victim of the accident.

When I arrived in Australia after a gruelling 27-hour flight, I was in a state of disbelief. It was difficult to see my loving husband in an induced coma and relying on a breathing machine to keep him alive. For the next few weeks I spent countless hours next to his bed, talking, singing and hoping for a miracle. Although my own needs hardly seemed to matter, I was also suffering in silence: I was emotionally distressed and left to make important decisions without fully appreciating all the consequences. There were also uncertainties about his physical and cognitive abilities. Was he still going to be the same person? Would he still love life as much as before? Would he be there for our daughter? Would our marriage survive this terrible event? Many questions to which I had no answers.

The road to recovery was long and each “stop” brought its own challenges, hopes and needs. Darryl’s return home after a few months of hospitalisation was particularly difficult and confronting. The pressures were enormous from running the house, raising our daughter alone, becoming the sole breadwinner, and providing emotional and physical support for Darryl. There were also significant changes in our intimate relationship as we were no longer husband and wife but rather carer and patient. This was a very difficult period where a few times I felt our relationship would not “survive” the incredible stresses it was being placed under. However, I reminded myself that rather than walk away I had the choice to confront this situation, to work on our marriage and to rebuild a healthy and satisfying relationship.

Life may change dramatically after an accident, but we can move forward and rebuild a different life that is still fulfilling for all those affected. Is it easy? No, but it is not impossible. The accident caused me to reflect on what good could come out of a horrible situation. I went back to university to study Psychology and I am currently undertaking my PhD. My aim is to marry my experience of dealing with trauma with my knowledge learned through education, so I am better equipped to help others deal with their trauma and the consequences that come with it.

Eight years on, Darryl and I are still together, we now have two beautiful daughters, Siana and Mila, and we have a very bright future. A future, built on a foundation of courage, tenacity and a common belief that when all things seem impossible, there is still hope.