35-year-old Grainne Kealy from Crettyard, Ireland suffered a terrible accident that left her without a forehead and nearly unrecognizable. Literally. After getting a reconstructive plastic surgery, she’s spent her life spreading awareness on the dangers of propping up the feet on dashboards of moving vehicles.

The mom of one was only 22 when the unfortunate incident occurred. She was in a car with her ex-boyfriend when the vehicle skid over black ice on the road and slammed into a wall, forcing the airbag to inflate and slam her knee into her face.

The accident

In an interview with LADbible, Grainne says no one else should have to suffer what she endured for many years [1].

“My boyfriend at the time was driving us through Borris-in-Ossory in County Laois to do a bit of Christmas shopping and I had my feet on the dashboard,” she said. “It wasn’t something I normally did, but I had new shoes on so I knew I wouldn’t leave dirty marks on the dashboard.”

“My feet were on top of the airbag and, I know now, they inflate at 200mph. The force of that meant my knees were sent back into my face really powerfully. I broke nearly every bone in my face. I had a brain leak [called a CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid)] and I lost two teeth.”

Credit: Gráinne Kealy

A cerebrospinal fluid leak occurs when cushioning fluid from the brain leaks through a meningeal tear into the nasal and buccal cavities, and out of the ears [2].

Having her forehead taken out

Kealy explained that she didn’t immediately lose her forehead. Anyone who sees her picture will immediately assume that her knee smashed had a hole into her forehead. Actually, the impact caused it to shatter in so many places. Upon arrival at the hospital, the doctors performed an endoscopic procedure to fix the fluid leak. Orthopedic procedures were performed to fix the broken bones on her face.

She says that she has a partial memory loss about the accident and the periods surrounding it.

Credit: Gráinne Kealy

‘It has been a long, long road,” she said. “I have no memory of the accident, the three months leading up to it or the month following it. One of my first memories is looking in the mirror for the first time. I didn’t recognize the face looking back at me.”

In December 2007, the doctors had to remove the frontal bone of Grainne’s skull, which is her forehead. The extremely painful procedure had to be performed when the bone got infected months after the auto crash. Recovering from such a major surgery wasn’t easy, and subsequently living without a forehead for two years was like hell for her.

“For a long time, I was afraid to leave the house. I became a bit of a hermit. I didn’t want to go out and then when I did go out, I would get looks. I bought hats to cover it. I was also worried about banging my head,” she said, describing the terrible headaches she endured.

Credit: Gráinne Kealy

Reconstructive plastic surgery gave her back her life

In 2009, at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, plastic surgeons managed to reconstruct Grainne’s face by fitting it with a ceramic forehead. In subsequent procedures, the doctors have had to borrow fat from the sides of her stomach to inject around the fitting. The aim was to make it look more natural, especially at the edges. It felt strange at first to look like her old self once again, but she gradually got used to it.

The entire ride hasn’t been an easy one for Grainne. Countless surgical procedures, along with pre-op and post-op treatments have taken their tolls on her health. Alongside the fractures, she also suffered a minor brain injury that has left her dealing with headaches all the time. Several other conditions arose from the numerous procedures she’s had to endure.

“I ended up with gallstones because of the medication I was on and I have near-constant headaches. There seems to be a different problem every year,” she said.

“I know people have it much worse off than me and I’m so grateful for the treatment I’ve received, but it’s hard to move on when it’s still ongoing for me. I think in total I’ve had 16 procedures and surgeries.”

She’ll never get tired of preaching the word

She feels a compulsion to let everyone in every corner of the world know what she’s passed through. Propping up your feet on the dashboard could snatch your life, health, and joy away from you in one single flash. Wearing a seatbelt isn’t enough to keep you safe in that circumstance.

Also, such accidents wouldn’t only occur upon over-speeding. Grainne’s boyfriend may have been driving within the speed limit, but the black ice which he didn’t see on time caused the vehicle to accelerate and veer off the road.

“You see it all the time,” Gráinne said in 2017. “Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Conor McGregor, and Selena Gomez have all posted photos to their Instagram with their feet on the dashboard. They have billions of followers who see that. You see it in films and on TV, it’s everywhere.

Credit: Gráinne Kealy

She’s used to people being quick to judge her and call her out for being careless. Despite the fact that she takes full accountability for her suffering, it’s unfair for anyone to throw it in her face that way.

“I just want to warn others about how dangerous it can be. I didn’t know – and some people say to me ‘how could you have been so stupid?’ but I honestly didn’t realize it could be so dangerous. I thought because I was wearing a seatbelt and was sat up properly in the car, I was safe.

“I want people to learn from my mistake.”

References:

  1. Woman Warns Others Not To Rest Feet On Dashboard After Crash Left Her Without A Forehead, Ladbible
  2. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leak, Hopkins Medicine
  3. Image credit: Gráinne Kealy

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