|Elizabeth Charleston, former international model and founder of THINK, The Head Injury Network for Kiwis, has thrown herself behind a campaign to raise awareness of head injuries in New Zealand.
Five years ago, on Auckland Day, January 2005, the horse she was riding at a show reared up and flipped on its side, crushing the right side of her body and knocking her unconscious. Elizabeth was discharged from hospital the same day as the accident but symptoms such as ringing in her ears, as well as problems with speech, memory, hearing and sight persisted. Two years later doctors admitted it was unlikely she would ever recover from her head injury.
According to Elizabeth, no one in the medical profession was able to give any useful guidance on further symptoms or warning signs, advice on coping with a head injury or of any support groups that might be able to help. Driven by a desire to help other people in a similar situation and to raise awareness of head injuries in New Zealand, Elizabeth established THINK! In March this year with the assistance of Waikato Head Injury Society branch manager Joan Limmer.
Part of this educational drive has involved appearing on TVOne’s “Attitude” programme on September 5, highlighting the impact her own head injury has had on her life and to increase understanding of the condition among New Zealanders.
Elizabeth, who’s image has appeared on the covers of a range of international magazines, still models part time and is able to ride a gentle horse for up to ten minutes, however, at times her concentration begins to wane and her mother Jocelyn is her right hand support person.
From a beauty care perspective Elizabeth attributes her good skin to her Grandmother’s sensible approach to the sun.
“Having grown up a typical outdoors Kiwi kid I was most fortunate that my grandmother always insisted that I wear a sun block when I was outside, especially when competing my horses at events. To this day I wear sun block every day regardless of the season, when I go outdoors and I genuinely believe that this is why my skin is still in such good condition.
“I’ve always been very mindful to take my make up off at the end of the day or evening out to avoid my skin breaking out, so I always travel with my trusty facial cleansing wipes.”
Elizabeth is thrilled with the amount of positive feedback she has received since the show aired, believing it will go a long way towards demystifying an illness that many sufferers are embarrassed to talk about.
“I am humbled by the number of messages people have sent me since the screening of the Attitude TV show. People have been in touch to thank me for speaking up about the ‘invisible injury’ that so many New Zealanders are living with. Many have shared their own stories on trying to live with a head injury or support a family member or friend with one. It’s almost an epidemic in this country and sadly there is still very little that can be done about the condition.
“The majority of people with head injuries are not able to work fulltime again as they suffer from short term memory, fatigue and problems with their balance and it can be incredibly frustrating as they simply can’t do the things that they used to do.
“It can happen to anybody and this year we are focusing heavily on people who play sport as a huge chunk of head injuries are sustained in sport. Horse riders and cyclists must wear a helmet to protect their heads. Those involved in sports such as soccer and rugby are also susceptible. The key message is always to be careful and never become complacent.”
The thirty minute Attitude piece can be viewed at http://tvnz.co.nz/attitude/s2010e26-video-3759382. Editor