Imagine waking up in hospital and having no memory of giving birth and raising four children.
Imagine being 42 and losing the ability to read, dress yourself, cook, take the bus or go for a walk alone.
These are just some of the unimaginable things Daphne Wilson from Limavady went through when she was struck by an brain aneurysm three years ago on what had been “just another ordinary day”.
The playgroup worker was leaving a friend’s child home when tragedy struck, just outside a local school. She remembers nothing of what happened.
She lay in the Royal Hospital in Belfast for the next four weeks, drifting in and out of consciousness. When she spoke, her words were that of a child. She spoke about her daddy, who had passed away some years earlier.
Naturally her children, none of whom she recognised, were worried but, four weeks later she made it home, although she remembered little.
From the wallpaper she had carefully chosen to the house itself, “everything felt alien”.
While a trauma of such magnitude would overwhelm many, Daphne embraced her “second chance”.
“All the bad stuff was gone,” says the Greysteel native. “I was never perfect and I made mistakes, not massive ones, but you know we all make mistakes.
“The way I saw it was this was a chance to do it all again, like a do over!” With the old Daphne gone, the new Daphne was determined to make the most of life.
“There were times when it got me down, but not many,” says Daphne, who believes her remarkable recovery is only happening because of the fantastic help of the Cedar Foundation and the brain injury team, her family and friends.
Each have helped her cope with the simple tasks of life, to the point where “life is beautiful” for Daphne. Lists are constantly in her presence, and she keeps track of her days in her diary.
Familiarising herself with routes, people and places, is something she does everyday. Daphne has come on so well she’s able to travel on the bus alone.
She loves to walk and is able to go out on her own, although she recalls her first solo outing when she got lost in the middle of Limavady. There are considerable chunks of her past Daphne has no memory of, although flashbacks help trigger memories.
“When I look through pictures I get this overwhelming feeling,” she says. “My children tell me things I did and I wonder, did I really? I don’t remember anything about school at St Mary’s, other than the colour of the uniform.”
Daphne doesn’t work at the playgroup anymore, instead she volunteers. She doesn’t line dance either because she can’t remember the steps. She has learned to read, but hasn’t mastered books because she can’t remember the characters or storyline.
Does it get her down? Not a bit. Like each challenge she faces, she devises a strategy and has one for this summer to read a book series bought to her from one of her children.
Her plan is to write a synopsis of each character and chapter. Such tenacity illustrates Daphne’s remarkable spirit, but she laughs off the notion there is anything extraordinary about her.
“The people I’ve met through Cedar, they’re remarkable. They make me go “wow” - and I get to meet them and be friends with them!”
As for getting dressed, Daphne says that’s a work in progress.
So too is getting to grips with numbers and colours, and Daphne says there are days she appears in an eclectic rainbow coloured outfit, swiftly put to rights by her children.
“I haven’t a clue about dressing Daphne or what she wore. All I know is she was a bit of a biker chick!” Daphne’s recovery is ongoing, but she has come so far she’s busy most days and has an active social life with friends she met through Cedar, and her family.
“When I was in hospital all I remember is chatting to daddy and wanting to stay with him, but he told me to go back, it wasn’t my time. I’m blessed he pushed me back.”
Daphne says she owes everything to the Cedar Foundation and her family.
“Without them I would be lost and without Cedar my family would be lost. Cedar is a godsend. The one thing I would say to people is, enjoy family and your friends. Live life to the full,” she says.
“I could sit and wallow and be sad, but how can I? I have four fantastic children and I met Paul, my partner and he’s just brilliant,” she says. “I’m a more condensed model of the old Daphne, but I’m here.
“This is my second chance. Life is beautiful and I love it.” For information about The Cedar Foundation log onto cedar-foundation.org