Wendy Joss was on holiday in Belgium when she made the life-changing decision to hire an electric scooter. Like many people, she didn’t realise the dangers of riding one without a helmet.
Looking back, she said: “Guilt was a major and an all-encompassing feeling after the accident. Guilt that I was stupid enough to get on a scooter without a helmet or any awareness of the danger it posed. Guilt that I’d done this to myself and that these actions would impact my family.”
Wendy’s story began in July 2019 when she was visiting friends on holiday in Belgium. She, along with a group of others, decided to hire an e-scooter.
She said: “There were thousands of them all over Brussels. Download the app, enter your details, accept all terms and conditions and we were ready. It was that easy.
Two things that surprised me the most were how fast they set off and how unstable they were.
Wendy hit a pothole and was thrown over the handlebars of the e-scooter. She hit her head on the pavement and was left unconscious.
“My life changed in that second,” she recalled. “I have no memory of the accident or the 24 hours following it. Apparently, I went from 15mph to 0pmh in a millisecond.”
A CT scan showed no damage to her skull or brain and she was diagnosed with concussion.
Wendy said: “We flew home the next day. At that point I didn’t think that my life would be any different.”
She said: “At first, I was super confused and the pain in my head was unbelievably strange. I’ve had migraines in the past, but this was a very different type of pain. It felt like someone was stroking my brain with ice cold hands and then squeezing areas so tightly I thought I would pass out.
“When I tried to speak, I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say. I forgot the dog’s name, I forgot my dad had died and I even forgot that I had a daughter.
This period was extremely lonely and there were dark times. Very few people visited, and the loneliness was deafening.
"As a person who was always organising, arranging and keeping in touch, I felt cut off. However, there were some good friends who I am forever in debt for their kind actions and understanding.”
Wendy used Headway’s factsheets and booklets to learn more about her injury and recovery.
She said: “I think I have read every booklet and factsheet going, mainly to reassure myself that there is progress in my recovery. I can double check my symptoms and look at strategies to put in place, such as using timers and lists.”
Wendy is hoping that she can turn her negative experience into a positive by advocating for safer e-scooter measures.
Alongside the introduction of e-scooter training and ensuring they are speed-limited, she is passionate about making helmets compulsory.
“Hiring an e-scooter should not be a quick transaction,” she said. “The apps should be designed so that people cannot avoid reading about the dangers involved.
If riders were told about the dangers of drain covers and potholes and how to avoid them, not to go immediately into traffic and to stay below 5mph for the first 10 minutes, they may avoid taking a head plant like I did.
Reflecting on all that’s happened, Wendy said: “I don’t know if I ever will be the old me again. This is a scary thought, but I know I was lucky that I didn’t cause more damage. Right now, I’m just focused on coming to terms with the new me.”
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