Life is a Cabaret

THE invitation stipulated dress code should be “fabulous” and given I think I should be awarded a Purple Heart for stepping out of my jarmies and into a cold winter’s night, I seriously underestimated what fabulous meant. Luckily, just as I was about to leave the house in what would have been another of my many fashion faux pas, I decided to call my best friend, who was involved in the function. “No, no, no!” he laughed, when I told him what I was wearing. “Wear one of those dresses you have.” And with that, he hung up. Now, any woman can tell you that being told to wear “one of those dresses” is not altogether helpful, so running late, I clutched at my old faithful Little Black Dress and dashed out the door.

Last night was the launch of Synapse’s 2012 campaign to highlight awareness of Acquired Brain Injury. Synapse works to rehabilitate those affected by Acquired Brain Injury and to educate the public about how serious, and common, this issue is. Among a population of 22.6 million, 1.6 million Australians have an Acquired Brain Injury. And last night, guests at a Brisbane function were invited to Synapse’s annual “Bang on a Beanie” or in this case “Bang on a Boa” launch.


There was Cabaret, champagne and canapés. And necklaces, naughtiness and nipples. I have it on good advice that one or two people may have been offended by the nipples. Not me! Given that I have been known to get mine out on one or two festive occasions, I was in complete awe of the Burlesque dancers who have found a way to entertain a group of people with their nipples AND get paid for it. I even made a mental note to sign up for a class or two. What those women could do with tassels was truly terrific and to say I’ll be practicing that sometime this weekend in the privacy of my bedroom is somewhat of an understatement.

It was a night for the bold and beautiful. Like Julian Saavedra. Julian, 20, from Colombia, was ran over by a taxi two years ago and landed on his head. He spent 20 days in a coma and several months learning to walk and talk again. After leaving hospital, he suffered from depression, which still plagues him some days. But he’s a survivor. “I was at home, bored. I got a book by Synapse on surviving Acquired Brain Injury. I started to translate that into Spanish. Then I translated magazines and campaign brochures.”  These days Julian works part-time with Synapse and studies French and Russian.

Then there’s Donna Sanderson, 39, a former hard-core heroin user who “scored” one night, hit her head on her bed, vomited and passed out. The vomit which blocked her airways sent her into a coma, interrupted the brain’s message to her legs, and now she’s in a wheel chair. But this Synapse board member lives independently: “Having an Acquired Brain Injury is not the end of the world.” She also sports two tattoos, the first reads: “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me” and the second are symbols for strength and courage. She aims to add wisdom to her arm sometime soon.

Lisa Cox, 32, was a healthy 24 year old when she suffered a brain hemorrhage out of the blue which left her 25% blind. She also lost 9 fingers, her left leg and her right toes and is also in a wheelchair. Lisa, who loves to write, is a motivational speaker at schools and a national ambassador for Synapse, has this message: “Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time.”

The function ended and I walked out into the crisp night air, delighted and inspired, and no longer worried about my dress or the fact it was cold. Before heading home, I decided to dance at my favourite 80s club, as a bit of a celebration for the fact I am happy and healthy. The club was teeming with gorgeous young men, all flirty, fabulous and full of life. In the course of the evening, I may have accidently touched one or two. I danced till my feet were sore and went home in the wee hours of this morning. As is often the case with me after a good night out, I’ve awoken with an inexplicable bruise on one foot, someone else’s red necklace, and without my winter coat. But I’ve still got my health. And yes, those nipples.

To find out more about Acquired Brain Injury or to donate to this incredible cause, go to or