Surrey (NEWS 1130) – Think of everything you do each day, now think of having to learn how to do it all over again. That may give you a bit of insight into the life of Harriet Ronaghan, the recipient of the 2019 Courage To Come Back award for Physical Rehabilitation.
The 29-year-old from South Surrey had to start her life over again after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car crash in 2007.
“I have an eight-month-old baby and I’m watching him right now learn to stand up and it just takes me back because I had to relearn how to do all that,” she says. “I had to relearn everything, [how to] blink, eat, swallow, walk, talk, everything you can think of that a baby learns to do, I had to learn to do.”
Her first priority was to walk again, regardless of what the doctors told her. “All I can say to everything I was told is…don’t listen. Well, listen but don’t take it to heart because they don’t know for a fact [that] unless it’s on an MRI that you’re not going to walk again, you can walk. It’s not possible for an MRI to tell you that, for example. I don’t think people [can] really know you like you know yourself. I could do it. So, you can do it.”
Harriet had what is called a diffuse axonal injury. She required complex neurosurgery and was given just a five per cent chance of survival. She spent the next three-and-a-half months in a coma. While she did survive, her new life did take some getting used to.
“I can’t run. I can’t dance. I used to be a ballet dancer. I can’t do that,” she admits. “But when it comes down to it, I can walk, I can talk. I can do things a little bit slower than everyone else but you take what you get.”
Harriet with husband Tyler and their son Charlie (Source: Harriet Ronaghan)
Nearly 12 years later, she is not only married with a young child, but she has also found a way to give back. First, she wrote a book about her experiences and she also shares her story with UBC Physiotherapy students and patients at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre.
“It just helps me see that I inspire people, she says. “And I just want my message to never stop trying to get across. Just keep on pushing, because you never know where your story ends.”
NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the 21st Coast Mental Health “Courage To Come Back” awards, which are being handed out on Wednesday, April 24.