When I first came across The Beautiful Monument, I fell in love with the music, their motivation and determination to succeed and the message they spread not only through their songs, but their personal lives too.
For those not in the know, tragedy struck in 2017 when bassist Shelby Ouston was struck down by a mystery illness which saw her hospitalised in ICU, in a coma, where doctors were left clueless about her condition. Upon waking up, Shelby lost her ability to walk/use her motor skills and unfortunately, her time with the band (in a playing capacity) was cut short. What happened next was a gruelling process of getting back on track again, learning to walk and regaining her independence.
She’s back again and chances are you’ve seen her rocking out at TBM‘s merch desk at their shows, but she’s not letting what happened to her keep her down… Shelby is bouncing back and wants to spread awareness for her injury, to not only let everyone know what happened, but also let others out there know they’re not alone. In order to reach out to the world, Shelby is putting on a Market Fundraiser at Crowbar in Brisbane on December 21st to raise funds for Synapse, an organisation who support Brain Injury Sufferers and their families and we couldn’t be more stoked to jump in and give her a hand to spread the word. The day will consist of market stalls, record rummaging and acoustic performances (to be announced) all in aid of a great cause.
We grabbed Shelb for a chat about her experiences, what the market day will entail, a look at the Synapse organisation and her clothing company Brain Drain Co. (which was conceived following her path to recovery).
*Warning: Some of the below images may be distressing for our readers**
Hey Shelby, thanks again for taking the time to chat with us. So we can all learn about where this initiative came from, can you tell us about your experience with your diagnosis?
What I was eventually diagnosed with was NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. My body was affected by a teratoma cyst on one of my ovaries, which basically flipped out my cells and they were attacking the brain tissue on the cyst (thing is crazy, it grows brain cells and teeth and hair and stuff so it really trips out your body), then quickly moving onto attacking my brain.
I was in hospital and from November 12th 2017 until January 16th 2018, and then moved onto rehab from January through to February 15th 2018, where I was taught how to walk, shower, take care of myself, work on my speech and challenge my memory to help build it back up. I spent a few weeks in a wheelchair whilst I was still too fragile and weak to walk, until I moved on to a 4 wheel walker (lovingly named Claudia) for a further 3 months.
Its been a really long 2 years since I was first admitted into hospital, and I’m still not properly cleared to do a lot of stuff that most people can, but I’m really pushing through everything to try to become the best version of myself that I can be.
It must have been such a stressful time with the misdiagnoses and not knowing what was going on. How did the Synapse organisation come into the scene and help you out?
So this is actually a huge part of why I chose this organisation, Synapse were never introduced to me. In fact, I felt a little unsupported at times. Of course whilst I was in hospital I felt beyond supported, as did my parents. However, when I was discharged from rehab, I was really lucky that my parents had moved down to Melbourne to rent a house with me and helped me in the times that I really needed help.
I want more people to understand what’s available to them, to their friends, to their families and to their wider communities. I feel so grateful that places like Synapse exist, and I wish that they could have the wider support that they deserve for all the work they currently do.
We’ve been watching your journey from your hospital admission to where you are now, handling merch at The Beautiful Monument shows and joining fans for a sing/mosh. It goes without saying it must have been an incredibly daunting experience getting back on track again right?
Yes, oh my god yes. Recovering from this brain injury has been the absolute hardest thing I have ever done ever, but I think I’m smashing goals. It was more than just a physical injury when it came to learning to walk and talk and take care of myself again, but it was also hugely an emotional battle – and not just for me. But as much as it was a challenge, I tried so hard to not lose my strength throughout it – which I really hope I did manage. Like I mentioned, I’m not yet doing everything most people my age are – but I’m back at uni and I’ve been there for almost 6 months, so it feels great knowing how far I’ve come through it all.
As a way to give back to those who helped you, you’re putting on the Brain Drain Co. Market Day at Crowbar on December 21 (just in time for X-Mas). For those with a free afternoon, what can we expect if we come down?
I’ve created this afternoon essentially to bring people together. It’s just going to be a beautiful safe space for people to hang out & listen to music & shop small. All whilst raising awareness and opening their minds. It touches on everything I hold really close to my heart, especially following everything that’s happened to me. We’re really encouraging a fun and safe space to spend the arvo – and of course encouraging those last-minute gift purchases haha
And speaking of Brain Drain Co. you’ve launched your own clothing label, which in turn, raises awareness for the illness and your story. Why’d you start this up and how can we get involved to show our support?
Brain Drain Co. was almost a bit of a collab with my mum, who was such a huge support throughout my entire recovery. She was really pushing me to find new ways to release all the stress and anxiety that my brain kept putting me through, and continuing to put me through, so I decided to try and draw. I guess it was from this that I realised, firstly, that I can draw, and secondly, I wanted to create something people could connect to. I always wanted to do that, which is why I connected so well with everything that I was doing in The Beautiful Monument.
That’s where it all came from, this burning desire to connect with people and to try to spread what I’ve experienced, too. I’ve heard some stories from people I’ve met through Brain Drain Co., and it’s so inspiring knowing how they connect with me and my story and it just makes me feel so encouraged to continue to raise awareness of those particular illnesses that are more than they seem.
A fantastic motivation to have. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
To anyone who’s going through a tough time right now, Hold On To Hope. You’ve got this and we’re in it together.
Brain Drain Co. – Market Fundraiser
December 21 at Crowbar, Brisbane (18+)
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