Thank you so much to Harriet Barnsley, who spoke powerfully about her experience of being involved a life changing collision for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Harriet joins our call for #crashnotaccident.
So, I’d like to talk to you today about a life-changing incident that happened to me in 2014. The day after I finished my degree, I travelled back home to Birmingham, met my oldest friend, and went to go to a hen party for a wedding where we were both going to be bridesmaids. I don’t remember it. I don’t remember that day or the weeks completing my exams. I don’t remember regaining consciousness.
I woke up a month later to worried faces of my family and found out that me and my friend Rebecca had been hit by a speeding driver while we were standing in the bus stop. The car was travelling at 101mph on a 40mph road. The driver was drunk and had been racing another car on the road. We got thrown 50 metres into a park next to the bus stop. Beccy died straight away. I was found screaming. The driver self-extricated and came out of his car in the park, which was full of families playing on a sunny Saturday evening in May. He got out of the car and repeatedly said, ‘Don’t tell my wife.’
I spent the first five years dealing with my physical injuries that were tangible things to work with, and I didn’t deal with any of the psychological damage. I suffered a traumatic brain injury. My Glasgow coma scale was the lowest you can possibly be without being dead. My brain got ignored for five years as I worked hard to get physically stronger and not rely on a wheelchair every single second of the day, even though I still do need a wheelchair most days and always will.
Five years later, I developed psychosis and thought that I had died and was living in hell, but also needed to relive the crash and get hit by a car again. I waited on the motorway in the middle of the night. I sat in my car crying as I waited to be in another collision and killed this time. The police pulled me out of the vehicle and put me in a jail cell overnight while they were looking for a hospital bed. Then I got sectioned for the first time.
I’ve had lots of challenges over the years, as you can probably tell from that small sample. There’s been a lot more than that. There’s been a lot of physical challenges. I’ve had medical staff try to get me to agree with getting my leg amputated. I’ve had to fight to save what I can of the leg. It’s been partially amputated so far. I’ve been told if I keep it because I can’t feel it, I’ll always run the risk of sepsis.
But despite all of that and despite a hell of a lot of pain, I’ve managed to find joy from life all the way throughout. Particularly after eight years, now I feel like I’m in a good place mentally. I’ve worked so hard, I always work hard, and now I’m in a stable relationship. I live with my partner and our cat, Fred. And I’ve started to talk about road safety to try and raise awareness because I now feel able to do so.
I joined my friend Lucy Harrison to support the mission to change the language used, to refer to road traffic ‘collisions’, instead of ‘accidents’. I feel this is a good starting point for the rest of my life in terms of advocating for road safety. I want to make more people follow the rules of the road which would help prevent needless collisions. And I want to also show people they can cope with whatever life throws at them. I’d like to do both. I’d like to help the world in any which way I can.
You can read more about Harriet’s experiences and insights on her blog
Updated on: 1 December 2022