Our Founder's Story.
In February 1993, Julie Clark was working as a flight attendant when she began experiencing persistent headaches.
After a particularly tedious 13 hour shift inbound on an aircraft from Moscow to Heathrow Airport, my usual persistent headache had become so intense. I had to concentrate so deeply on driving home all the while holding onto my head wishing it would go away. I knew I had to make it home (17 miles from the airport). Somehow I made it and collapsed in a heap. From that moment, I lost my memory.
Surgery and recovery
Red lighted by ambulance to hospital in Berkshire UK for immediate surgery as I had an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation). The AVM was operable but after two failed attempts at embolisation, we decided to wait until after our wedding to make a decision on surgery options. Not long after I was discharged from hospital, on bed rest, Mr Adams Consultant Neurosurgeon at Oxford Radcliffe Infirmary, gave me the option of stereotactic radio surgery to be carried out at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital. The date was set for May, so I had to take it very easy as I was still prone to bleeds. I was so lucky to be offered this new and innovative surgery and I was given an expected 2 year recovery period. My employers, British Airways, told me I had very little chance of returning to fly, but Julie (Clark) chose not to listen to this and battled on to get ︎better.
I listened to my healing brain and body, did as I was told, rested, ate well and attended all appointments for check ups, and even took up embroidery, used crossword puzzles and listened to music to relax. Never did I worry about the future as I knew that I would be OK! I knew I was very lucky and as luck would have it, returned to my career of flying. I became a trainer and facilitator for British Airways Cabin Services enjoying every interaction with people from all across the globe.
Moving to Australia
We made a life changing decision to explore Australia leaving England behind. We also wanted to show our girls a new world of options available to them and so in 2006 we emigrated to Australia where we have now settled on the Central Coast of NSW.
My life is pretty normal and after being advised on `being ︎careful︎ having children`, our two beautiful daughters are now aged 17 & 18. As I couldn’t remember my wedding day to Robert in 1993, he organised a renewal of vows in 2004 just before we emigrated, so I got to feel that beautiful emotion and joy of a marriage. What a wonderful experience that was.
As for my memory, it hasn’t fully come back and I do experience flashbacks occasionally. Therapies gave me the tools to manage from a super network of professional organisations who fully understand ABI. (Acquired Brain Injury).
I always wanted to share my story to help people who may be going through a similar journey, daunting angiograms, numerous CT scans and lots of hospital visits. I began to study medicine, natural therapy and meditation techniques to instill a sense of calm for my brain and very inquisitive mind. My ︎mindful︎ medicine has helped me to cope with simple daily lifestyle practices from handling the smallest of pressure, and most of all being around people who understand ABI.
Finding Synapse and support
Finding Synapse at an Interagency meeting in Epping Sydney at BIA NSW, was a godsend. This was the most important remedy. I feel whole again knowing I am not different, that people do understand some of the complexities that can creep up in time. Stress is a big thing, and affects me the most. I have trained as a Lifestyle Practitioner to assist and help communities build awareness of wellbeing initiatives. With inspiration from Jamie Oliver︎s Food Revolution Day, I became a volunteer Ambassador for the Central Coast, and started an organisation called ‘Food Whisperers’ to bring awareness of healthy food choices into the community. I have recently become an NDIS provider for All Ability Yoga.
I have made life a place to be happy and healthy, through adversity and with my tenacious personality I endeavour to assist those who need it most. Yes I still need help and yes I still get tears as lots of emotion comes up. I stay strong knowing I am walking a healthy path and that my ABI will help me to appreciate others needs as well as my own.
Believe me when I say that I understand, I have been there︎ and yes I cry with joy knowing we care about each other and that I am able to share my story with you.
Julie's story was originally published on Synapse, Australia's dedicated brain injury organisation.