RaeLea Foley and Bonnie, the horse she was riding when she had her accident.
RaeLea Foley and Bonnie, the horse she was riding when she had her accident. Andrea Davy

Work accident gives cowgirl new mission in life

Life-changing injuries have given a Gatton-based cowgirl a new mission in life.

In June 2018, RaeLea Foley was working at a feedlot near Dalby when a charging bull caused her mare to buck.

She was thrown from the horse and trampled, suffering injuries to her leg and head.

Due to the demands of the workplace, she was back in the saddle only five weeks later, only to be hospitalised two days after that as the true extent of her trauma became clear.

The incident left her with a myriad of symptoms that continue to detriment her day-to-day life, including memory loss, fatigue, migraines, blurry vision, and hearing loss.

"My recovery is something that's probably never going to end. My symptoms from the injury are actually becoming worse, my health is declining,” she said.

But RaeLea isn't going to let her circumstances get in the way of helping others.

Early on in her recovery, she realised that there wasn't an existing support network or general awareness for issues like what she was going through.

"It's a topic that's not often spoken about. Everyone knows it's a difficult industry to work in, but no one is out there talking about people that are suffering from brain injuries, and are still having to work in agriculture,” she said.

She said cases like her own were far more widespread than many people realise.

"Within the first week or so of me deciding to get in contact with people just for my own support system, I found twenty or thirty people,” she said.

"It wasn't long before I decided I was going to create a support group or charity, to help them, and now I've got a few hundred people. Most of them are Queensland-based, I haven't even got the word out to the other states, so there'd be thousands of people who are suffering this.”

To spread awareness, RaeLea has recently founded a charity, Dust Off Brain Bust, to offer support to survivors, and help educate people about the issue of brain injuries in agriculture.

The charity has only been active for a few months, but they have already established a Facebook-based support group.

"It's solely for people who've suffered brain injuries, so they have a place to come, and talk to other people who are going through similar problems,” Raelea said.

"They can tell their stories, and they're not being judged, because everyone there has gone through the same thing.”

As well as allowing brain injury sufferers to share their experiences, the charity aims to funds to support survivors with their travel, medical bills, and recoveries.

Dust off Brain Bust is seeking support and sponsorship from community groups and companies to help the charity grow and spread awareness.

"A lot of people have messaged me to say it's helped them in some small way. That's all I want to do. If I can just help one person, then that's enough for me,” RaeLea said.

Those interested in getting in touch or learning more are invited to visit RaeLea's website: https://dustoffbrainbust.com/


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