Clinging onto the side of a motorcycle as it hurtles around a track at over 130 mph requires skill, concentration and an enormous amount of bravery.
47-year-old, Fiona Baker-Holden entered the sidecar racing scene in 2003. Racing alongside her father, she became Scottish Open Champion in her first year of competing, with the pair later becoming European champions.
Every year Fiona, who works for Lancashire Constabulary, and her father competed in the world-famous Isle of Man TT races.
“I was the fastest lady in history round the TT on a sidecar,” Fiona proudly remarks.
However, in 2018, while competing in the TT, the realities of partaking in such a dangerous sport became clear.
A high-speed crash resulted in Fiona sustaining a broken neck and a brain injury, alongside a multitude of other injuries.
She was airlifted to the local hospital before being transferred to Aintree Hospital, who specialise in motorcycle racing accidents, three days later.
“I was operated on to have a metal cage fixed into my spine and I woke up two weeks after the accident in a hospital bed,” said Fiona.
“Slowly things dawned on me. When my husband John brought my father, who was also injured in the accident, into the ward to see me, the penny dropped.”
Fiona spent a month in hospital recovering from the physical effects of her spinal injury. However, the effects of her brain injury were less clear.
“I was aware that there was something wrong because I kept losing lots of my words and stammering when stressed” said Fiona. “I pushed for a speech and language assessment and, following tests, was told that I’d probably suffered brain injuries in the accident.”
While Fiona’s physical recovery was going well, over time she began to struggle with the development of more side-effects of her brain injury.
“My head would go to ‘mush’ if I tried to concentrate on something for any length of time and I got so fatigued that it would take days to recover.
I couldn’t recall simple pieces of information and multi-tasking was a complete no-no.
16 months on from the accident, Fiona has been unable to return to work.
“I’m continuing to fight the daily, interminable nerve pain, cope with expressive dysphasia, learn to pace myself and not get too fatigued, all whilst trying to reduce my levels of medication, find new ways of retaining information and stay on task.
I’m determined that this isn’t going to beat me though!
“As time moves on, my physical injuries are less obvious, it’s the hidden issues that I find really hard to accept. I look ok, so I must be ok!… but I’m not… yet.
Fiona credits poetry with helping her recovery.
“When I started attending counselling sessions at work, my psychologist suggested I write poetry as a vehicle to help me explore, vocalise and explain my feelings.
“When I read what I’ve written, I feel really proud of my efforts. Some days, when I’m not having a good day, I read some of my thoughts and it helps me feel better about myself.”
Alongside poetry, Fiona has also been supported by Headway.
Fortunately, quite early on, my neurorehabilitation team directed me to the Headway website. What an eye-opener and saviour it has been!
“I’ve learned so much information about what I am faced with and realised I wasn’t making things up. The online leaflets have been the most enlightening sources of information and I’ve slowly been more able to talk to my family and friends about the difficulties I’m faced with.
“I successfully applied for a Headway Brain Injury Identity Card as well, which I’ve had the need to use on a couple of occasions. Having the card in my wallet just helps me feel a little more confident when I’m out and about.”
Fiona is determined to help others affected by brain injury and has produced a poster using a Headway information leaflet which has been displayed around Lancashire Police HQ.
“I feel so very proud, because if someone recalls just one fact from my poster, then I’ve achieved something positive,” she said.
Despite her ongoing recovery, Fiona has entered the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2020 and will be running for Headway.
“For me, it’s important to have goals and targets towards getting well.
People say life isn’t a practice, but I feel I have been given a second chance and I have to grab it with both hands.
A failure isn’t something I wanted to be.
Look at my results and achievements and you’ll see.
Please, I just want my body and brain to go back to being free.
I was good. I want to be good.
I just want to go back to being me!
I want to be the old achieving me with new knowledge I’ve learned.
Reaching new heights from corners I’ve turned.
Come on girl you can do it, just look at the miles you’ve churned.
I was good. I can be good. I am good.
A failure isn’t something I wanted to be!
I might walk like I’m drunk
I might talk like I’m drunk
I might even like the daily feeling of feeling drunk
But I’m not drunk.
Yes I’ve had a bang on the head
Yes it was at 130mph
Yes I was catapulted 20ft up in the air before landing on my head
And yes I am a flip-flop, but I’m just trying to do the things I used to do.
Just trying to get along in life again
Trying to find my way
I just don’t know where that is
Can you find Wally? Flip-Flop? Fiona?!
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