A young woman has been left unable to walk, talk or feel any emotion after a simple accident during a romantic break.
Hair stylist Zalehka Price-Davies was on a trip in Dublin when she went for a morning walk and fell down nine steps in a café.
The 29-year-old then woke up four days later in hospital, unable to walk, talk, read or write.
‘One minute I was feeling unwell and looking for the toilet, the next I was in a hospital bed in a strange place,’ said Zalehka.
‘I couldn’t talk so they handed me a white board, which I didn’t understand. I remember crying because I didn’t know what was happening.’
She says her injuries have brought about a complete personality change.
‘I used to be the life of the party and now I can’t feel excitement or get enthusiastic about anything,’ she added.
Zalehka Price-Davies says her personality changed drastically after a simple accident during a romantic break to Dublin
Zalehka, 29, woke up in hospital unable to walk or talk and spent three months in a specialist brain recovery unit
The fall two years ago left Zalehka, from Penarth, with a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain.
After a week, she was flown home to Wales by air ambulance to the University Hospital of Wales and Rookwood Hospital where she spent the next three months in rehabilitation.
The injury has left her suffering blackouts and seizures, as well as constant headaches and chronic exhaustion. She has also lost the sight in one eye and uses a stick to help her walk.
The accident also damaged her left frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls emotion and personality.
It has meant that Zalehka had to give up her job as a director stylist in a hair salon in Cardiff.
The former hairdresser was forced to give up her job because of her injuries
She said: ‘I find socialising overwhelming so I stay quiet in a room full of people and ask friends to introduce me.
‘I’m conscious of my stammer [a result of the accident], and I have outbursts and mood swings.’
Hope through therapy
Last summer, desperate Zalehka reached out to charity Headway, which helps people with brain injuries.
She now attends their centre at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff twice a week and Llandough Hospital’s day unit three times a week for therapy.
‘I can’t taste food and I don’t feel hungry so occupational health are trying to help me to want to eat,’ she explained.
‘I’m on a fatigue management course and they do workshops on understanding brain injury.
‘It’s amazing. They have places for you to go and sleep. I’ve met amazing people who’ve been through the same thing.’
Zalehka is paying back the charity Headway for their support by fundraising
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SYMPTOMS
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as the following symptoms that may appear within the first hours to days after a head injury:
- Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
- Persistent headache or headache that worsens
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
- Loss of coordination
Cognitive or mental symptoms
- Profound confusion
- Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
- Slurred speech
- Coma and other disorders of consciousness
Source: Mayo Clinic
Doctors have told Zalehka that the scarring on her brain is permanent, but she may be able to ‘re-wire’ her brain by carrying on with her therapy.
‘The three months I was in hospital learning to walk, talk and write were hard,’ she said.
‘But the transition to real life was harder. The adapting to the new me. People might see a photo of me on Facebook laughing and think I’m okay, but inside I often feel empty like a shell.’
Grieving for the person she was
Zalehka started a blog about her ordeal and says she’s receives messages from other people living with a brain injury from all over the world.
She has posted about being in her late twenties and ‘trying to relearn everything you would have as a 1+ year old’.
‘I couldn’t even remember how to spell my name or what street I lived in. I had to learn to talk, walk, read, write, you name it I had to re learn it,’ she wrote.
Zalehka explains that she is still grieving for the person she used to be.
‘I’m trying my hardest to accept the new girl who is one year old today,’ she said.
‘Only those close to me will see my daily struggles and I’m so thankful for those who stand by me and help me through the bad times, they also give me the best encouragement to keep striving towards my goals.’
Zalehka is now organising an auction night on September 30 at Glamorganshire Golf Club to raise money for Headway.