While we all know that a single moment can alter the course of a lifetime, we never know when those moments are going to occur. For Gráinne Leach, that fateful moment happened on April 30th 1984, when a seemingly inconsequential decision changed everything. Gráinne was a fun-loving 22-year old, loving life and living it to the full. A self-confessed sports addict, Gráinne was taking a break from playing in the National Basketball League to enjoy a day on Brittas Bay with her friends. She borrowed a bike to take a quick trip down to the local shop for some supplies and this seemingly inconsequential action set her life on a whole new course.
“When I went down the road, I pulled the break at the bottom of the hill and unfortunately I didn’t know that the break was gone, so I shot in underneath the bus.”
The accident left Gráinne with a fractured pelvis and a broken shoulder and leg, amongst many other injuries, but most significantly, it shattered her arm beneath the elbow. Many years later on the anniversary of the accident, completely by chance, Gráinne met Ryan Tubridy while walking on Dun Laoghaire Pier. The two got chatting and he invited her onto the show to share her story.
“I don’t remember the impact of the bus hitting me, but I remember when everything stopped… What kept me alive was I was so fit, so that’s why I was conscious. .. I was under one wheel of the bus and the bike was under the other wheel and what I do remember was the bus man having to reverse off my arm so that was pretty traumatic…”
Gráinne’s naturally sunny disposition helped her cope in the initial aftermath of losing her arm, and she continued to go out with friends and live a life as close as possible to the one she had before the accident, but she says she was only really dulling the pain and the grief with activity and distraction. After the first of her four children was born, Gráinne suffered from postnatal depression and things came to a head. “I had let it go too long,” she now realizes. “It was the mental tiredness of putting on the brave face when really deep down I was sad about losing my arm.” She knew something had to change and embarked on a journey of personal development and counselling.
“I had to do it for myself and for my children. I didn’t want my children growing up with a sad mum for the rest of their lives. I wanted them to grow up confident, being able to go out into the world and feeling that they can do anything. I hope that’s my legacy to them.”
While Gráinne is something of a poster child for the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, it certainly hasn’t been an easy ride and despite valiant efforts, she wasn’t able to find her way back to the basketball court. She has channelled her love of sport into many other areas instead, taking an active role in her children’s sporting endeavours, working for the IRFU and managing the Irish Under 18s Ladies Touch Rugby Team. It goes to show, you can’t keep a good woman down.
Click here for the full interview.
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