02:54pm Friday 28 February 2020

Brain injury won’t stop Bridget from achieving her dreams

She was paralysed from the neck down and doctors feared she would not be able to walk or use her arms again.

Eight years later, Bridget  stepped out of her wheelchair and walked publicly for the first time this week, crossing the stage to tumultuous applause to graduate from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Bridget said her subject choices had helped her recovery in different ways.

“I’m excited to be graduating as it means one chapter is closing and I’m moving on to the next. It’s important to keep moving forward, but I wasn’t sure where I’d be moving forward to,” Bridget said.

“Media Studies allowed me to develop my interest in different aspects of media. Recent work experience at a Brisbane TV station, where I observed a variety of production processes, has helped me to decide I want to go into television production.”

Bridget said the knowledge she gained about the brain and brain recovery from studying neuroscience towards her psychology major was also an enormous help.

“Looking back, now that I understand the nature of neuro-rehabilitation, I realise it isn’t just a matter of injury plus rehabilitation equals recovery.

“It’s injury, plus rehabilitation, plus time equals recovery,” she said.

“But the time frame is very variable. It might be two weeks before your next improvement or it might be two months.

“While day-to-day living is sometimes difficult, if I look at my progress from month to month, or even six monthly, it’s pretty remarkable how far I’ve come.”

While living in The Netherlands with her family in 2005, Bridget developed a sinus infection and what was thought to be stomach flu. Three days later she was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery to treat two abscesses on her brain.

The original cause of Bridget’s impaired spinal cord function, after the brain injury and subsequent surgery, has never been fully discovered. Bridget has undergone 12 major operations and undertaken hundreds of hours of physiotherapy to reach where she is today.

“When I look back I have come a very long way,” she said.

“In Years 11 and 12 I struggled to do two subjects each year as my brain injury affected my processing speed.

“Some people were worried about how I would go at university, but luckily for me they didn’t tell me until after I made the Dean’s list for high achievement!

“I’ve wanted to go to The University of Queensland to study a Bachelor of Arts since I was about eight years old. Although both my parents have Arts degrees and work at UQ, this wasn’t parental pressure.

“I was attracted to an Arts degree because of its general nature, and to have finally achieved that when I have changed so many other interests throughout my life, is really rewarding.”

Media: Dr Michael Harrington (Bridget’s father) m.harrington@uq.edu.au , 07 3365 6719

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