S1 Ep1: Darron Eastwell

I first met Darron Eastwell in my role as a journalist at My Weekly Preview on the Sunshine Coast. Darron’s incredible story of not only surviving a high-speed downhill mountain biking accident against all odds (his family were told he would have a less than 10% chance of waking up from his coma), but then going on to slowly become the master of his new limitations.

As a self-published author, Darron knows how much passion and dedication goes into the creation of a book and says “it’s almost like a business card I call it, having a book. It can open doors for you too, people of all walks of life, if you’ve got a book that helps, people think, ‘Oh wow’!”

Watch the interview that uncovers his inspirational journey here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLwWEupGWds

Or you can read the video transcript below:

Roxanne – Hello everyone, Roxanne here from the Phoenix Phenomenon, joined here with Darron Eastwell who’s a fellow Sunshine Coast resident. Darron had a mountain biking accident in May 2015, and has sustained an acquired brain injury from that accident. Now I’ve got Darron here with me today, thank you for joining me.

Darron – Hi Roxy, how are you going?

Roxanne – Yeah, good, good, love to find out a bit more about your journey, obviously it was a life changing incident that you went through that day, but tell us a little bit more about what life was like for you before this mountain biking crash?

Darron – Sure. I was, my work life was a bit of a dominant aspect of my career then, I had a 25 year banking career with the National Australia Bank, I started when I was 18 when I lived in Victoria and I just progressed through the years, I was constantly on the move, I relocated from Victoria to the Sunshine Coast the first time back in 1994 I think it was.

I pretty much moved from Victoria to Queensland three or four times, Central Queensland and Regional Victoria, so I had a long successful career, I was married, I had two young kids, I worked tirelessly on the banking career to be successful to provide for my family. So I was always chasing that next promotion and doing what the bank asked and really basically gave, I’d sort of say now that my personality was the bank. I just worked ridiculous hours and probably five or six days a week when I was working 10 or 12 hour days, that was quite long and it was a demanding job, but I really enjoyed it.

I learned a lot from it. I met so many different people from different organizations, different industries.

One thing I take out of it, I started in retail banking, so the normal branch you go into and I worked my way through that, then I entered business banking, and then I was like an assistant to the managers and then eventually I got the experience and I moved on to progress to management and the last 10 years of the career I was a business banking manager and the last portfolio that I was looking after was about $150 million.

I had staff under me, I had to run a business banking center, so there was quite a lot of responsibility involved and it was demanding where it’s part of the job, we’re in that corporate banking space I suppose.

But I actually got to near the end of, not the end, but I felt like the expiry date of my banking career. [That it] was finishing and I just got to the point where I’d had enough.

My wife and I, we always wanted to settle back on the Sunshine Coast and call it home, kind of a complete move, we were married for I think 20 years and we’ve lived in about 17 different places, 17 different houses, just ’cause we always moved and relocated and our kids were getting to the age of secondary school, so we really wanted to base ourselves on the Sunshine Coast and call that home.

Then we relocated back here April 2015 and only been here four or five weeks, when I got the kids back

and settled into school. Me and my wife were both looking for work, we moved without permanent

jobs at this stage, a bit of a risk, but we felt confident we’d be able to find work.

And then come to May, I hadn’t ridden a mountain bike ride for that time, five or six weeks, and I was really chomping at the bit to go for a ride, so I decided to get up to Tewantin National Park, and I don’t have any memory of the day at all, I still have no recollection of waking up and driving there.

And even what caused the accident, I have no memory of it either.

Roxanne – But I understand in the years that have passed you have been able to piece together little bits and pieces of what transpired that day, can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve discovered?

Darron – Yeah, so sort of just talking to people that did find me, I was ready alone on the trail at Tewantin National Park, and I was unconscious on the ground, and my bike was about 20 or 30 meters away.

And there was another rider riding by himself again, and he found me, he called the paramedics to come and they took me, it took about a two-hour drive from Tewantin National Park, where I was they couldn’t get a normal ambulance in there, so they had to get a four wheel drive ambulance and then stretcher me out and then see how far they could get me out just because I was in such a state. Apparently I was moaning and groaning. I couldn’t talk and the paramedics had to stop a few times along the road to settle me and then I was taken to Nambour ICU, where I was treated for about four hours I think it was, but I was still not fully conscious and the doctors made the decision then to put me in a medically induced coma.

Because of the state I was in, they were unsure of what injuries that I suffered. The first couple of days they took x-rays and MRI scans, CAT scans, you name it they did it, and when they tested, I had a fractured skull, a fractured neck and a fractured spine, the T7 vertebrae, and there was diagnosed also a severe traumatic brain injury, or acquired brain injury, which is actually called diffuse axonal injury and that’s probably one of the most severe head injuries you can get.

They tried to wake me up a couple of times. Three days into the coma they tried to bring me out of it. But once I was coming to, I was pulling the cords out, the intravenous lines out, so they sedated me again.

And then, on the seventh day they tried to wake me up again and I eventually woke up from the coma and I knew the only thing I could say or try and speak was, I knew and recognized my wife and my family. My parents and sisters had flown up from Victoria.

I recognized them, I could say their names, but I had no idea where I was or what had happened. I actually thought I was in Victoria in the town where I grew up in. So yeah it’s, it’s almost like the old Darron finished back at the accident and this new Darron was re-learning to live again.

Roxanne – Sorry did you get a sense of that straight away? Like once you were awake did you feel that something was off straightaway, or was that something that you came to realise as you were awake for longer?

Darron – Well I have no memory of being in hospital. Even today I have no memory of the ICU when I was in a coma. When I first woke up, I was in the Nambour hospital for about 10 days, they transferred me to the Caloundra Hospital for about two weeks while I was waiting for a bed at the Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit and once I got there, I was there for about seven weeks doing rehab and just recovery.

But the only real memory I have of being in hospital was the day I was discharged. I can remember walking out, I walked out unaided, I didn’t have to have a wheelchair or crutches, I didn’t have a limp, I didn’t really look like I was a patient and that’s what a lot of people would say when I was there.

I can’t remember this, but when I was doing rehab, the rehab people would come and get you from your room and then they would take you to the occupation therapy or speech therapy or whatever they would do.

This one day the occupational therapist walked past me about three times and she’s looking for somebody else. All she had done is read the report and reading the injuries and just thinking this guy is gonna look all banged up and not looking real good, but I didn’t look like I belonged there.

The other things that I can remember is when I had to go back as an outpatient for rehab, I saw patients that were there and it was horrific to see, some patients that had had part of the skull removed, where they have to wear a helmet to protect themselves, and they’ve got a halo contraption, they’re either in a bed and they need 24/7 care.

It’s a bit hard to see and think that that could have been me, but yeah it was a bit surreal the first time I’ve gone back there, I couldn’t even remember the hospital or anything like that, so I was always relearning everything.

Roxanne – Okay, and I guess you probably have found out a fair bit from your wife and your family about that time in rehab and in the hospital since then. I remember you saying in a previous chat that they had said that your odds were not looking good for a portion of the time perhaps when you are in a coma?

Darron – Yeah, well the doctors basically give the worst case scenario to my wife and my family, they basically said that the Darron that was, will no longer be and the injuries that he sustained it’s more likely if he does wake up from the coma, because 90% of the people that get the injuries that I had and they end up in a coma, don’t wake up and they’re basically in a vegetative state in bed, where they need 24/7 round-the-clock care and that’s what they were told.

But yeah, I proved them wrong.

(both laugh)

Roxanne – Yeah and then some.

Darron – Another thing that I’ve learned, like I’ve learnt so much about brain injuries and all these different injuries that I had. In ICU when a patient is submitted or they go into a coma, there’s a thing in the medical world called the Glasgow Coma Scale, and they measure if you can move if you can verbalize, talk or anything like that, or you can feel sensation on your skin.

It’s scored from a three to 15, three being a dead person and 15 you’re in a coma, but your prospects are gonna be looking pretty good. And I was scored five. I wasn’t looking real good. There was times that my wife, she spent time there with me in bed, I can’t remember, that she just thought I wasn’t gonna come back. Or what’s gonna happen if we lost him. So I can’t remember it,  which is probably a good thing,

There’s just times there where it would have been so hard to experience or watch a loved one being helpless.

Roxanne – Absolutely. And as she recounted to you what it was like for her the moment that you did wake up?

Darron – Yeah, I don’t know what they do, how they withdraw the drugs or the sedation on you and they were going, “Wake up.” (There’s an) NG tube I think they call it, a tube down your throat to breathe, when I woke up I tried to pull that out and they were settling me down, I was just saying to them, “what happened? where am I?” I mean but I recognised them and then ’cause of the fractures in the spine, they weren’t sure if I would be able to walk.

So that same day I woke up, they tested me if I could stand, which I could stand, but I had to work with an aid frame, like an elderly aid frame, and I walked the day that I woke up. They’ve taken videos of that day as well, I look like a 60, 70-year-old man, hobbling on his aid frame.

It was a joy for them to see me finally awake after so long and what they’d been told.

Roxanne – Yeah absolutely, absolutely, it would be like a miracle.

Darron – Yeah, I believe it is. Some things happen for a reason and I’ve seen people that have had similar accidents, and I don’t know the details of their injuries, but for me to be able to function pretty much normal, I still have my limitations on what I can do, but I pretty much function normally, it is a miracle.

Roxanne – Yeah. So what are some of the limitations that you are now working through or living with?

Darron – Well probably the first is I haven’t been able to work, so the 25 year banking career I’ve had ended. I’ve never been able to return back to work, I haven’t been able to drive. So in Australia, there’s actually laws if you sustain a brain injury, you don’t lose your license, but if you had an accident and they find out that you had a medical condition, you could be liable for what you did, or if you hit someone.

I haven’t been able to drive for three years. On the positive side there, I’m going through the process of getting medically cleared to drive again and I went for my first driving test on Monday this week, which I did pass, which was an unreal feeling. Three years sounds like, it doesn’t feel like a long time, but it’s a long time.

Just to get back behind the wheel and remember where I was going, there was times even when I was walking and using public transport, I just didn’t know where I was going, I had to use the name of the streets or things like that.

So that’s working, driving, the fatigue levels. I still get very fatigued, pretty much I’d say about three or four o’clock every afternoon I’m pretty much done for the day, my batteries run in. Anything after that, if I try to push myself, I’ll mess it up, or I’ll get pretty frustrated and cranky,

if I’m trying to do something where I’m using my brain, or trying to work something out, I just stuff it up all the time.

So fatigue, then with my speech, with the fatigue so I start losing my speech and I might stutter. I can’t physically do what I used to do prior, but for the last probably two and a half years, I’ve had a pretty heavy physical exercise routine. So once I finished the normal rehabs, we started to do our own, so I’ve done a lot of swimming, and they say swimming is good for the brain, because you’re using the left and right-hand sides of the brain and doing different motions at the same time, so I’ve done a lot of swimming and cardio exercise and strength and conditioning, so pretty much three to four days a week that’s what I do now.

A little over two, two and a half years now, I could only probably walk, I literally just walked to my letterbox and come back and I was exhausted. So I’ve had to set goals, where they were achievable goals, and just increase those goals. So just slowly walk further and did more than I could do and just slowly over time the fitness has returned, the perseverance what I can do has got better.

I’m still unable to do a lot of the physical things that I could. I just get really dizzy, that has now gone because I’ve gone down the natural pathway, I’ve taken no prescription medication and I’ve used the local Sunshine Coast naturopath and I’ve got supplements that I take daily. It’s another miracle I think, the dizziness basically has gone, it’s back to zero.

Roxanne – That’s amazing.

Darron – What else? Other limitations are, they’re not bad limitations, but I have no sense of smell, very limited sense of taste, my hearing has been turned up, so I can hear they’re more sensitive. It’s like if I go to a shopping center, in the early days it was too much noise, I just couldn’t handle it, but I’ve got used to it now.

And my vision at night time, like say you’re in a car, a passenger and you see all the lights, I just can’t focus on it.

Roxanne – Sure.

Darron – My vision is impacted by the light. And my memory, I still have bad memories, I’ve got to try and really think what’s today, what am I doing today. I’ve got the big whiteboard where I write everything up.

Roxanne – Okay.

Darron – I use my iPhone with a lot of alarms. So like this meeting today, I put an alarm on my phone to

make sure I wouldn’t miss it and I use lots of sticky notes.

Roxanne – Yeah, excellent.

Darron – One thing about the sticky notes. When I first got out of hospital, my memory was so bad, my wife had to put a sticky note on every cupboard and drawer in the house to tell me what was in the kitchen because I just couldn’t remember where things were. So now I remember where they are, so it’s taken three years to do it.

Roxanne – Are they still there or have you been able to take them down?

Darron – No, the sticky notes are gone. I pretty much remember where everything is now.

Roxanne – That’s excellent, and that brings me to the other thing too, your book, How I Broke My Brain, I love the title of that by the way. (laughs) Tell me about the process of the creation of that book for you, I understand it was a bit of almost a therapy process for you as well and it’s now gone on to help so many people around the world who have picked it up and read it.

Darron – Yeah the funny thing is, I never actually sat down to write the book. Because again my short-term memory was so badly affected, part of my rehabilitation and the occupation therapist suggested I had to start writing a daily journal, so the things that I had to write was just simple stuff like what the day is, what I’m supposed to do, or what I had done. It might be two or three points, so it had to be handwritten, so I had to learn how to hand write again too.

I’d forgotten how to use a computer and all technology, even my phone, I didn’t know how to use it. So every day I would write, I would leave the diary next to my bed, and the idea was we wake up in the morning, the very first thing you do even before you get out of bed, have a look at the diary and try and remember what I had done the day before or what I had written in the diary.

And early on, I couldn’t even remember where I put the diary. I’d lose it, or I wouldn’t write anything in it, but just slowly over time I got into a routine of remembering to write things and put it next to my bed and get up and I’d remember it. So then I would just write a little bit more and more each week.

And then after about a six month process of me doing that to help improve my memory and fine motor skills and then I started to, I was still trying to work out what my brain injury was, because I kept on saying to myself, “surely I’m getting better.”

I’ve had broken bones before, in a six to eight-week period you’re back to normal, surely I’m gonna be right now. But with a brain injury, they say it’s like a fingerprint, no two are the same and everyone’s recovery is different.

So I decided to start reading a few books on brain injury and recovery, just trying to learn what

other people have done. I found this book and the guy who wrote it was a brain injury survivor and he’s a cyclist as well same as me. So I read his book and he mentioned just trying to write the journal as well, so I said that’s a good idea, why not just try to expand on what I was writing each day?

So I wrote how I was feeling, like emotionally, what goals I had, just trying to understand the process of what had happened to me from the day to the hospital and what people have told me. I basically had, I think it was six months, no 12 months of journal writing and it finally came to me I thought, ‘I reckon I’ve got a book here,’ so I showed my wife Bianca. She didn’t know I’d been doing it, she just knew that I had been journaling and things like that, so I said “I reckon I’ve got the book here, I’m pretty excited, I might try and write one.”

She says, “Alright go for it.” I said, “I’ve done it.” I’ve showed her, she read it, she goes, “Wow, this is a good book.” I still got the handwritten notes and the book that I did it in and I’ve re-read it a couple of times, and it’s just really odd, it’s like a real young child writing, just basic English. The grammar mistakes, it’s not how I used to be.

But the therapy part of it for me was getting all these questions that I had in my own head down on paper and it just helped the healing process. And I think it was probably about halfway when I actually

accepted the new Darron and my new limitations and then once I accepted I’m gonna be different

moving forward to how I was, but there’s no reason why I can’t become better and heal myself and from that day it was a clear moment in time where I felt myself getting better and my writing got better and the quality of what I was writing about got better. So really it was therapy.

Roxanne – Yeah, was there a particular catalyst for that moment that triggered that moment for you?

Darron – There probably was, but I can’t really remember what it was. The one thing I used to do, because just getting out of bed every day was such a struggle, because I was constantly busy. I would basically wake up and I still do today, with like a concussion feeling, headache, fogginess in the head and I had to get up.

I made sure I got up and had breakfast with my kids before they went to school and with my wife before she went to work, just that was my motivation to get up and move ahead and rather than sit on the couch all day, do nothing or go back to sleep, I just learned to do something.

I’m a pretty determined person, I’ve always been. I set goals, I wanted to be something or do something positive with my life. I think once I accepted alright Darron this is me, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna be a victim or a victor? And I wasn’t gonna be a victim, so that was the real point where I decided I’m not gonna continue sucking my thumb, I’m just gonna get on with life and this is where I am.

But I’m not ashamed about talking about it, because the thing with my, is classified as a disability, but it’s an invisible disability. Like if you look at me I don’t look like, I’m probably normal, but it’s just the invisible disability that you can see.

Come and see me when I’ve had a couple of busy days and I’m a different person. I can’t talk, I can’t read, and I just can’t… I basically need a quiet room. But the whole writing thing, when I was getting to the end of the book being published, no, we’ll go back a step, because when I finished my manuscript, I’m like, how do I get this published?

Then the book that I had read, David Grant, David’s from America, he’s also a traumatic brain injury survivor. He’s done the ghostwriting aspect and he runs a company in America called David Grant Books and I read his book, I was inspired by his book as well, so I just emailed him and told him this is what I’ve got, this is my story. Any chance of doing a deal with you? And within 24 hours I think it was he emailed me back and he said while this is amazing Darron, this story is something the world needs to hear. I said, well that sounds more positive.

Roxanne – Yeah that’s right, never mind Australia, let’s go the whole world.

Darron – Yeah so David was great, as he developed my website, did the book which is available

on Amazon as an e-reader, or paper cover or hardcover and he develops a magazine in America, which is a monthly subscription, you can get it for free, but it’s all about brain injury and carers of brain injury survivors and things like that, so I was reading a lot of what he was doing, so I think it was January 2017 we started working together, we worked through chapter by chapter or I’d email him all the, I had to type up my handwritten notes which took me two months to type up, because I’m pretty much a two finger typer, trying to remember where the letters were.

Then I emailed that across to him, then we’d just work through each chapter at a time where he’d edit it, correct spelling and grammar. But he actually said, it’s the first book that he had worked on where he hardly edited, he edited about 20% of it, he goes, “you don’t touch a great job.” I said, “oh wow, that’s must be good.”

And then that was June last year. So June 2017 it was out and available and so it’s just going over 12 months now and I keep a tab on the numbers that it’s sold, and it’s up to about 650 copies now.

Roxanne – That’s amazing.

Darron – I’m proud of it yeah, really am proud. Because on my website I can see when countries have bought it or downloaded it, so far there’s about 16 different countries that people have bought it from, so it’s traveling more than me.

Roxanne – You’ve got to start chasing your books around. And I understand you do get a fair bit of feedback from readers as well, and tell me about how they’ve connected with you and how you’ve inspired them?

Darron – Well when I first got out of hospital, when I came to the realization I was writing a book, I said right, my goal is if I can help just one person that was going through I went through and my family went through that would be worth it. Because as I said, when I was trying to learn what happened to me and why can’t I get better, I just didn’t know where to turn to, but early on once the book was made available and David used his magazine to advertise it and just friends and friends of family and family would all tell everybody, I was slowly getting emails from around the world on Messenger and it was all about the positivity of how the recovery that I did was basic, so I returned to natural resources, like what I ate, the diet I changed, exercise and music, playing a musical instrument – I’m learning the guitar.

A lot of people have said they’ve done the same things or they’ve spoken to a family member who’s had a brain injury themselves and they’ve highly recommended to try just the basics of recovery, be patient with yourself, because it takes time.

So I haven’t had any phone calls, it’s always just messages or emails where people email me about, “oh, your book’s fantastic, it’s an easy read.” It’s done in a way, even the font in the book is a little bit larger than normal and that’s supposed to be easy to, it was deliberately done in that way because it’s easier for people with brain injury or difficulty with reading to read the words better.

And it’s a sense of supposed gratitude really, of when a stranger contacts you and reaches out to you and ask you for help and I’ve even had people contact me and ask how do I write a book? They might say, “I’ve written like a rough book, how do I get it done so I can refer people to David Grant who helped me, or people that I know in Australia here. It’s like a bit of a network, where I help people get their books done, or give them advice on how to get it done.

Obviously Facebook’s around on everything at the moment and I’ve created my own business page, or commercial Facebook page about two months ago, it’s called Darron Eastwell’s TBI journey.

Roxanne – Oh yes?

Darron – I’ve got about, I think it’s about close to 500 followers already.

Roxanne – Wow, that’s amazing.

Darron – So I’m getting people that are sending me messages, or I like posting a few things. Everything that I’m doing or if I read an article about an organization in Australia that are helping with brain injury recovery or research, I post that up there, so there’s lots of information places as well. I was contacted last week I think it was, they called me, the Australian Brain Alliance, and they posted a message

about my story and recovery. They’re trying to get politicians to basically agree to funding or provide funding in Australia for brain research, TBI all sorts of things, and strokes, it’s like having a voice to try and help the ones that can’t talk also, or can’t have a voice.

Yeah, so it’s quite humbling, it’s almost like a business card I call it, having a book. It can open doors for you too, people of all walks of life, if you’ve got a book that helps, people think, “Oh wow!” and I’ve gone all over the Sunshine Coast, I’ve done about six of the largest independent bookstores.

Roxanne – Okay.

Darron – I’ve done author days on them, so that’s where I go there and just sell my book, talking to the people and everywhere I’ve gone to, a person that bought the book knows someone that sustained a brain injury as well and we’re connecting and just comparing stories of what works and what didn’t, it’s really good that I can help people, that’s what I really wanna do.

I like talking about how it helped me, the things that I’ve done, like I said I take no medication, I really believe recovery is in your mindset. I know there’s a time and a place for doctors and medication, but I think if you do it the natural way, I’ve used a lot of essential oils as well, so I’m proof that you can not a 100%, and I’ll never be a 100%, but I’d say I’m close to 90% of what I was.

And I’ve pretty much dropped out drinking alcohol, what I try to eat, essential oils, I use that daily and then exercise.

Roxanne – Wonderful. And going back to mindset as well, I mean obviously you’re a very determined person, you’ve got a really positive outlook, were there any emotional challenges when you were going through this process of discovering the new Darron and learning these limitations?

Darron – Oh yeah.

Roxanne – Tell us about that?

Darron – Well I would have cried a river, there was nights that I couldn’t sleep. When I first got out of hospital, I just couldn’t sleep. I was tired and exhausted during the day and then when I would go to bed, I might get a couple of hours sleep, you know like broken sleep. There were times when I was so confused with what had happened.

I couldn’t work, my role in my family I was always the one that went out to work, because my wife didn’t work, looked after my kids, so now our roles have changed, where she’s had to go out to work now and help the family and the food and bills and that sort of stuff, so it was tough, yeah there was definitely times when I thought, “what’s my future gonna be?”, luckily for me I had insurance cover, but that insurance claim process was an 18-month time for it to be approved, so I was just an emotional wreck during that stage, like stressful, are we gonna be able to keep the house, are we gonna have to move back to Victoria to be closer to family.

Just the difficulty in being a completely different person, not remembering, there’s one strength I know I had before the accident, was I had an unbelievable memory, where if I went somewhere or drove somewhere I’d remember it, whereas now, early on I couldn’t remember what I’d done within half an hour and that was what I found pretty frustrating, but yeah it’s so emotional and my family, the kids and Bianca, they were just the biggest motivators. They helped me, one thing with a brain injury person or anyone that’s injured I suppose, you need that network to comfort you and provide for you and just help you along the way and they were probably, my own family they would come up and visit and support and I believe I’m a better person now because of the injury and what I’ve gone through.

Roxanne – That’s interesting.

Darron – I’m a better person and closer to my parents to my wife my kids, my extended family and friends. Probably more of a pest to them now because I ring them too much.

Roxanne – But why do you think that is? Is it because you’ve taken that step back from that hustle and bustle of the corporate world? What do you think it is that has made that happen?

Darron – Well it’s just, you can’t take life for granted, I know now that you can be gone in the blink of an eye and I just appreciate the simple things like I love spending time with my kids, my family and my wife, they are everything to me.

I live on the Sunshine Coast, we’re in paradise here, we’re very lucky. That’s another reason why I’m healing well too, because I’m in a warm environment, we’ve got the beaches and rainforests within half an hour in any direction you can be in a different environment and I’ve used the Sunshine Coast environment to heal.

Where I’ve gone swimming in the ocean, just to feel the sun on your face, yeah, just don’t take things for granted. I never used to think I did, but I obviously did, because I’ve always got to do things for work, for the bank and I wound up putting my family and friends behind that, where it should be the other way around.

You put yourself and your family first and then work. I know you have to work and pay the bills to provide and things like that, but I really encourage anyone out there, if you’re not happy in what you’re doing, find something that is gonna make you happy.

I feel I’m the happiest I am in my life. I laugh more, I’ve been doing a lot of things I never used to do, like reading, writing books, there’s my book there, I’ve got a photo.

Roxanne – (laughs) perfect.

Darron – And here’s the magazine, I’ll put those there.

Roxanne – Yeah why not.

Darron – Those two there, they’re the American magazines that I was talking about, that I’ve written a couple of pieces for. So what I do with my time now? I read a lot, I’ve read about I don’t know, I think it’s about 40 books in the last three years that I’ve read and I never used to read. The last book I read was when I was in high school, I started reading to help with my speech and just learning new things, so reading a lot.

I’ve even done a few public speaking gigs where I talk about my journey, what I’ve gone through and what’s happened along the way.

Roxanne – Tell me about the first time you took to the stage or you stood in front of a group of people, and just I guess it would have been for the first time really, I know you poured it all into the book, but to talk to a room full of people is a completely different dynamic isn’t it?

Darron – Yeah, well, I got asked, I’ll give them a bit of a plug here, it was Stories of Hope on the Sunshine Coast.

Roxanne – Yes I’m hoping to have Kerrie on soon.

Darron – Good, good, actually I went to it again last night, so in October last year, Kerrie contacted me because there was an article in the Sunshine Coast Daily about what had happened and about the book and I had never met Kerrie or spoken to her, or heard about Stories of Hope, so she contacted me to see if I would be interested in catching up and having a chat and then she told me what she does, so she invited me along to just have a look, so I went along and she had two speakers there on the night,

I thought, this is good, then she asked, “Would you be interested in talking?” So I said, “Yeah, I’ll give that a go.” So I think on the night there was me and another lady that were speaking and there was probably about 60 or 70 people there so the room was quite full, but to my amazement I wasn’t nervous, I’d spoken in front of crowds before in my job, I was a bit petrified, not petrified but I was very nervous, because I felt that they were judging me, or what am I gonna say is gonna be the right thing, when I got in front of the audience I was fine, I said what I wanted to say, I kept on track,I didn’t get too emotional.

I remember I did have a bit of a tear in my eye at one stage when I started talking about my family and what they had done. It was another part of healing, where I could tell my story share my story to strangers and then to have people coming up to me after the event and saying, wow that’s amazing to see what you’ve done.

So it was a real uplifting time, and since then I’ve spoken at about, I think it’s about six that I’ve done, the same topic, talking about recovery mindset, brain injury and yeah I hope, finger’s crossed, there’s another one happening in September later this year which is the main organization of Australia, which is Brain Injury Australia, that’ll be at the annual conference at the Princess Alexandria Hospital which I was a patient at.

So hopefully I can get a gig there, where I’m a guest speaker, but it’ll be a real highlight for me to be speaking there and telling what I’ve done, so hopefully that comes.

Roxanne – Absolutely.

Darron – I think these chats we’re having, I’ve done a few podcasts chats as well, so it’s been a good ride.

Roxanne – Yeah definitely. Speaking of rides, have you gotten back on a bike yet? A road bike or any other kind of bike?

Darron – Yeah, well actually, what was it not quite a year, it was 280 days since my accident I actually got back on the bike. I went for a ride, I had my good wife there watching me, I was very nervous, I was really worried that day. What if I fall? She’ll think, “why did you do that?” But we made it back unharmed, no events, so it was really good.

So since then I pretty much ride every second day, because I still can’t drive, I pretty much ride just around where I need to go to the gym or anything like that, so yeah, pretty much back on the bike. I’m not doing the crazy downhill speeds that I was doing, yeah, it just feels like another form of recovery, where I can navigate my way where I’m going and don’t fall off. (laughs)

Roxanne – But I imagine mentally it would have been quite a huge breakthrough for you even just get that first ride done, and to go yeah, I found another part of the old Darron almost.

Darron – Yeah it was, because even at that stage I was still struggling with dizziness and my eyesight was really bad then, so I had to just take it really, really slow, there was a couple of stages where I was traveling along just the footpath, but it was going in and out of the shade, into the sunlight, and for probably about a hundred meters I struggled a bit, but once I got through the different light I was okay.

It’s not been my form of transport for the last two and a half years.

Roxanne – Excellent, hopefully you can upgrade to four wheels soon.

Darron – The bike’s cheaper than the car too.

(both laugh)

Roxanne – Excellent, alright and so obviously moving ahead you’re looking to do a lot more public speaking, connecting with a lot more people through your book which is amazing, I wanted to see if there were any other, you’ve dropped a few gems or tales of wisdom along the way through our conversation, but if there was any poignant message that you wanted to give to the listeners to help them with any challenges that they might come across in their lives?

Darron – I probably, I’ve said this already, but I’ll just recap on it, I honestly believe you just can’t take life for granted and appreciate the little things, like I’ve lost pretty much all capability of functioning, I didn’t even know how to make a cup of coffee, whereas now I love just going out and having a coffee.

Just to talk to a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while and reconnecting with people, it’s not about all the material things that us as humans want, it’s the little things, just don’t take life for granted and set yourselves small achievable goals and then once you achieve those goals just reset, keep resetting goals and live a happy life.

Roxanne – Excellent, so are there any tips to what constitutes an achievable goal?

Darron – Yeah, well like most people and I was guilty of it too, when I first started my own physical rehab, I used to think, well I’m supposed to do a fair bit of running and I’d run between five and 10k each time I went for a run, so I thought as soon as I get out of hospital I’m going for a long distance run, but as I said, you’ve got to identify your physical capabilities and you’ve got to build them up, just over a timeframe where you can, it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s exercise, or you wanna read a book, if you’ve never read a book before and you struggle to read, just read one page, then the next day, or the next time you pick it up, read three pages just slowly increase what you do and over time it will get better.

It’s a discipline thing, it’s a time management thing too, I’m a big believer of writing things down. Don’t try to remember it all, we’ve got so much going on in our lives, it’s impossible to remember everything , even without a brain injury.

(both laugh)

Just write everything down, even what I do every year for the last three years. I’ve written my yearly goals and I’ve written short-term and long-term goals, but no specific date where I’m going to achieve it. I have a visualisation board and on visualization board I have things I wanna achieve, but I have no set goals, so what happens in six months, five months, five years, but I’m looking at it every day.

I’m a big believer, if you visualize something it will happen, on the front of your mind, or at the top of your mind, don’t put a timeframe on it.

Roxanne – Excellent, that’s really sound advice for everyone, I think I’ve probably learned a few things there myself. Excellent, thank you very much Darron, so Darron you can find Darron’s website, www.Darroneastwell.com.au. You can buy copies of his book, The Day I Broke My Brain, from that website and also from Amazon, so make sure you check him out, give him a bit of love and connect with him if he’s really helped to inspire you in your own journey, whatever that might be.

So thank you so much for your time Darron, appreciate that.

Darron – Alright Roxy, it’s good.

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