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My name is Suzanne. I am 49 years old.

In August 2008 whilst on holiday in Thailand I contracted Herpes Simplex 1 Encephalitis. For 7 weeks I was in the ICU of a hospital in Bangkok before being medically repatriated to Adelaide where I spent 5 weeks in the RAH and then 18.2 months at BIRU at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre. I do not remember anything of my time in Thailand and until I moved to BIRU in November 2008. My last memory just prior to my illness was catching a plane from Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I had been visiting my niece.

Prior to my illness I worked in the SA Public Service and lived alone. I was very physically active – walking to work most days from my southern fringe city property. I also rode my bike whenever I could. I regularly participated in activities with my nieces/friends such as netball, touch football, boot camp, gym sessions and classes, tap dancing, belly dancing and fencing to name a few things – I loved to try new activities. I also enjoyed going to the theatre, concerts, movies and when the Fringe and Womad program came out I was an early booker. If I didn't have someone to go with I would go alone. My greatest passion was travelling, mostly independently to off the beaten track places. When I got ill I was on my 11th overseas trip.

My illness has left me with permanent brain damage where I have difficulty with my speech, reading and writing ability. I also have trouble with walking particularly in open spaces and uneven surfaces. My life since I got ill has revolved around constant rehabilitation sessions with a myriad of therapists which has resulted in me being able to move out of BIRU to live independently with the help of carers and family - something my doctors did not ever think would happen when I was first admitted to the RAH. I have now been living in my current residence for 12 months very successfully and hope to purchase my own home in the very near future in the Glenelg area where a lot of my family live. My previous home was 2 stories and not practical given my disability.

Soon most of my therapy services provided by BIRCH will end. I attend an aphasia computing group at the Burnside Library, Communications group at Flinders University, Pilates at a nearby Physiotherapist and a weekly swimming session at Minda through SASRAPID. My lovely carers come a few hours each week to take me out to the library or shops or whatever I want to do and help me around the house. Soon I will have a volunteer to take me out on some weekends. Other than that family (mainly my older sister) take me shopping, to the movies and theatre and family events. I am the 8th of 10 siblings and have 14 nieces and nephews and 8 great nieces and nephews, so there are frequent family occasions to attend. I have even travelled to visit family interstate - travelling alone – the airline staff were wonderful. When I am alone I watch lots of DVDs, play with my DS and use my computer to send emails and look up things like prospective homes for sale. I have recently rejoined facebook! Most recently I bought an exercise bike to increase my fitness.

As for the future I hope to keep improving with my walking and speech. I am getting fitter – I can now swim 30 laps (all different strokes) of the pool whereas 12 months ago I had trouble getting in the water. I would like to be able to go out by myself and meet and make new friends. At present I rely on taxis (very unreliable and expensive) and family/friends/carers to take me anywhere. I hope to purchase a gopher once I have my new house. You never know I might even be able to get my driver's license back. I still have my job though I could not do what I did before – it was very IT related. I have not worked since my illness.

  Telephoning: 08 8443 5555 The Talkback Association for Aphasia Inc.
302 South Road, Hilton.
South Australia, 5033