Real Life

REAL LIFE: “I was in a coma for four months and forgot my husband had left me!”

Elise lost her memories after falling into a coma, now she shares her incredible story.
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Elise Speirs, 54, Ulladulla, NSW shares her story:

I admired the autumn colours on the trees as I waited for my son’s school bus to leave the car park.

Suddenly, my phone rang.

“How’s the weather” my sister Denise asked when 
I answered it. “There’s supposed to be a bad storm coming. Be careful.”

“Looks good,” I said as 
the sun shone brightly in the corner of my eye.

My older sister Denise was always looking out for me, especially during the past few months.

I’d spent 15 years living 
in Saudi Arabia with my husband and our three children Olivia, Alexander and Nathaniel.

The kids, who went to school in the US and Canada, were out of the country 
when my husband sent 
me an email informing 
me of

our divorce.

My heart broke.

I had no choice but to return to Australia and rebuild my life.

After working as a midwife, I’d decided to get a job with my brother-in-law at a skin care practice and train to be a cosmetic injector.

I’m grateful everyday for my second chance at life.

(Image: Supplied)

Things are finally back on track, I thought as I drove.

But that was my last memory until…

Next thing I knew I was being pushed around in 
a hospital bed.

Both of my legs were in casts, and my arm was in 
a sling.

Denise was beside me 
and I was being wheeled 
to physiotherapy at the Liverpool Brain Injury Unit.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You don’t remember?” she replied. I just stared blankly at her.

“You were in a car accident four months ago,” she said. “You veered off the road, 
and crashed through trees.”

Con, her husband, explained a Bunnings 
van driver called Toby had found me after I’d been unconscious for 13 hours. He’d

thought I was dead until I whimpered.

“I was just dropping off Nathaniel…” I said.

In hospital after 
the accident.

(Image: Supplied)

You’ve been in a coma. And you have post-traumatic amnesia,” she said, explaining a brain injury had left me with me both short- and long-term memory loss.

It was a lot to take in. My confusion turned to anger and paranoia.

“Where’s my husband?” I asked 
one day. It had only 
just occurred to me 
I hadn’t seen him.

Denise looked at me with pity.

“He left you, Lise,” she said. “Before the accident.”

I’d completely forgotten that my husband had divorced me.

My heart broke all over again and I let out 
a blood-curdling cry.

With my sister, Denise – she’s my rock.

(Image: Supplied)

Denise held me as tears streamed down my face. How could this happen?

I was convinced Denise and Con were part of a conspiracy to keep me in 
the hospital. Why was I still there? I felt fine. But docs said I needed to heal.

After four months, my casts were removed and 
I was allowed to leave. 
I still couldn’t remember much and quickly became confused and agitated. So the kids and I moved in with Denise and Con.

Denise helped me recover memories, by telling me stories and showing me pictures of our childhood. 
She also took me to physio appointments. It was exhausting work, but I knew it was essential. My sister truly became my rock.

Whenever I got lost and confused, she helped bring me back to reality.

Slowly, memories came back to me, but other aspects of my injuries were irreparable. My peripheral vision was affected, and my world started to look like 
a Picasso painting.

Finishing the City to Surf felt amazing!

(Image: Supplied)

As weeks turned to months, I progressed with my rehab, and even started running.

“A good goal would be to enter the City to Surf,” my physio suggested. “I’ll do it with you.”

“Great idea,” I said and signed up right away.

When the day arrived, my hope was to run the entire route from Sydney CBD to Bondi in two and a half hours. When I managed

it in less than two, I was thrilled.

As my physical strength improved, I wanted to work on my mental health and come to terms with my accident.

“I’d like to meet Toby, the man who saved me,” I told Denise one night.

“I’ll set it up,” she smiled.

When we sat down to lunch the following week, 
I felt overwhelmed, but powered through.

“Would you be 
able to tell me what happened that day?” 
I asked.

“I was driving along when I noticed that 
a couple of trees were down on the side of the road. There’d been a storm overnight and something didn’t feel right,” he started. “I pulled over and saw the car wreckage.”

He said when he saw me trapped inside, he thought 
I was dead, and phoned the police to report it.

Me (left) with Toby and his wife.

(Image: Supplied)

“But then I lifted the windshield, the glass cracked and 
I heard you groan.” he added. “I couldn’t believe you were alive. I called the ambos right away.”

I sat in stunned silence. His gut had told him to check the situation out, and in doing so, he’d saved my life.

“Thank you,” I started. There were no words to express how grateful I was 
for what he did.

Hearing from Toby was 
a weight off my shoulders. 
It added another piece 
to the jigsaw puzzle that 
was my life.

Eventually, I moved into my own place with the kids and have carers from icare NSW who help me daily.

I even started writing a book about what happened to me. It’s been the most amazing rehabilitative exercise in bringing back

my memory. Every time I do it, 
I unlock new memories.

Now, I’m working with 
the Vocational Intervention Program through icare NSW to return to work. I’m looking forward to being recovered enough to live fully independently again.

I want other people to know that they can go through a near-death experience and still come out the other side stronger than ever.

I’m truly grateful to have a second chance at life.

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