Dusting herself off after a brain bust

Jillaroo's brain injury the inspiration for a charity


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ON A MISSION: RaeLea Foley has founded the Dust Off Brain Bust charity because the impact of brain injuries are often misunderstood and frequently fall outside the workers compensation safety net. Photo by RaeLea Foley.

ON A MISSION: RaeLea Foley has founded the Dust Off Brain Bust charity because the impact of brain injuries are often misunderstood and frequently fall outside the workers compensation safety net. Photo by RaeLea Foley.

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One year ago, jillaroo RaeLea Foley sustained a life-changing brain injury and is now focusing on her own charity, the Dust Off Brain Bust.

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RaeLea Foley is every inch the classic jillaroo.

She has spent days on end in the saddle, built kilometres of fences and even knows her way around an autopsy.

Only, these days, it all comes a lot, lot, harder.

"Some days, you wouldn't know I've had a problem," Ms Foley said.

"Other days, I just want to stay in bed and it takes all day to do something.

"On those days I feel sick of life and think, 'I just can't do this'.

"I've had to find something to motivate myself with and the idea of helping other people with brain injuries in ag was a light-bulb moment."

The inspiration to start a charity, Dust Off Brain Bust, followed a serious brain injury a year ago, two weeks after Ms Foley's 20th birthday.

While on her horse separating cattle, one of the mob charged, panicking the mare.

"It felt like she was bucking forever," Ms Foley said.

"I remember so clearly sinking into the saddle, hanging onto her while trying to pull her up.

"I lost both my stirrups, snapped my rein at some point and hit the ground."

The impact split the helmet Ms Foley wore and badly damaged her right leg.

She woke in "phenomenal pain" with no memory after spending nearly a day unconscious.

Still, Ms Foley was back at work within five weeks.

Then, to make matters worse, her sight failed.

Everything "went white" while she was opening a gate and all she could do was stand by her horse until help arrived.

Spending a week mustering seems beyond reach now and Ms Foley has turned her attention to helping people with brain injuries in agriculture.

A closed Facebook forum launched eight weeks ago already has hundreds of members.

"I'm amazed how many people are in the same boat but, after my own experience, not surprised to see how much need there is for better assistance," she said.

Ms Foley, who is desperate to return to work, said the needs of those with brain injuries were often misunderstood.

Financial hardship was common, too, as many found themselves falling outside the workers compensation safety net.

"We're not being lazy but sometimes more teamwork is needed to get the job done," she said.

Something as routine as mustering on motorbikes was now difficult.

"The pressure of the helmet and the constant noise of the bike and two-way radio makes each minute a struggle," she said.

Dust Off Brain Bust will sell merchandise to build awareness and raise funds to help those living with brain injuries access medical care.

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