At just 25, she also bravely launched an events and photography business in the middle of a global pandemic, which has seen her become a fixture on the Bay of Plenty social scene.
But that’s not why people stare. Brylee knows it’s because she only has one arm.
“It’s human nature to look at someone you see as different, but I’d rather have a conversation because I might only have one arm, but I’m the same person as them,” she tells Woman’s Day.
Brylee was six when she lost her left arm in a freak car accident and she still recalls all the horrific details of the day.
“Mum was driving the van with me and my two older sisters, heading to Kai Iwi Lakes up north. We were only five minutes from our campground when the tyres struck gravel and the whole van flipped onto its side, crushing my arm, then dragging me along with it as it slid to a stop. I was trapped underneath the weight of the van. The others had to climb out before me.”
With a long wait for the rescue helicopter, Brylee remembers being comforted by passers-by, who circled round to lift the vehicle to help her out.
“Everyone tried to hide their horror, but once they lifted the van up, I could see most of my left arm was still on the road. There was blood everywhere. I had so much adrenaline pumping that I didn’t feel pain, but I remember the emotions of my family and that trauma stayed with me years later.”
In hospital, Brylee’s mother, who was pregnant at the time, had to break the news to her daughter that surgeons were unable to save her arm. It had to be amputated at the shoulder, leaving a small stump.
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