A SCIENTIST who suffered severe brain damage when the motorcycle she was a passenger on crashed has spoken of her battle to regain a normal life.

Katya Solyanko was riding as a pillion passenger on her husband’s motorcycle, when they suffered a tyre blowout on the M6.

The 29-year-old, who was also left partially sighted after the incident in February 2011, collided head-first with a crash barrier as she was returning from a motorcycle enthusiast festival in Wales with her husband Philip.

After two years in rehabilitation, and with more recovery time ahead, Katya contacted specialist injury lawyers Irwin Mitchell.

Lawyers helped her secure a six-figure financial settlement from insurers to help provide her with the private rehabilitation she needs.

Following the accident, Katya was airlifted to Preston Royal Hospital, where she underwent two operations.

Katya, of Havelock Street, Accrington, was forced to give up her dream career as a data marine scientist at Hull University.

She said: “My first memory of the incident is the noise of the helicopter as I was being transferred to the hospital.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to the fantastic staff that came to my aid, and I am sure their speed at getting to the scene helped to limit the impact of the bleeding on my brain.

“Had it not been for them, I fear my injuries could have been much worse.

“I feel lucky to be alive.

“When I first woke up, I had no idea who anybody was. The only person I recognised was my mother and that was really difficult for my family, especially my husband.”

Katya, originally from Russia, still suffers lasting effects of her injuries, and can no longer work for long periods due to her poor eyesight and cognitive problems, including seizures and impaired memory.

She said: “The brain injuries had a real impact on my mental well-being and I would often become angry with my family as I didn’t want to let my injuries stop me leading my life as it was before the accident.

“Sometimes I would get so confused about where I was, and would sometimes think I was back in Russia.

“It took me a while to accept the impact the crash has made.”

Katya, who is now registered as disabled, said she was refusing to let her injuries prevent her from working in the future.

She said: “Yes, I am now disabled, but that doesn’t mean I can not make a difference.

“I have been volunteering with the Wildlife Trust using skills to record different species of mushrooms and trees and I really enjoy it.

“I would encourage anyone who suffers life-changing injuries like me to not give up on their dreams.”