But through force of will, he wrestled against a disastrous med' />

A severe brain injury halted Dr Ali Danesh's successful career as a psychiatrist.

But through force of will, he wrestled against a disastrous medical prognosis and has won a remarkable degree of recovery.

Born in Iran, Dr Danesh studied and worked in the United States before shifting to Dunedin - near Otago University for his children - and becoming head of psychiatry at Timaru Hospital.

Driving to work from Dunedin on a Monday morning in 1987, he received a major brain injury in a serious car crash just south of Timaru.

The injury left him unconscious in Dunedin Hospital for more than four months.

"They said to me, 'Ali, you are never going to be able to walk, talk, see. And if by chance you can walk and talk, it will be a miracle.

"This miracle happened."

Dr Danesh, 69, can walk with the help of a frame, talk, see, read and write.

He is speaking publicly to support the Brain Injury Association of New Zealand's fund-raising appeal.

A regular attender at a support group, he also wants to motivate the brain-injured not to give up, to tap into what he considers the universal human potential "to make the impossible possible".

The association says more than 90 people, including stroke victims, suffer brain injuries each day. They range from mild concussion to severe insults from which people never fully recover. Some die from their injuries.

President John Clough says males aged 15 to 35 comprise the largest group of those who suffer brain injuries from head trauma, caused by the likes of road crashes and fights.

The next largest group is children under 5, from causes including falling off playground equipment and child abuse.

He says that although New Zealand has good rehabilitation services, moderate to severe brain injuries can devastate the victims' lives and break up families. Often a person will lose their career, their personality may change and they can become extremely irritable, although some end up with a softer personality.

"Seventy per cent will become clinically depressed within two years of their injury."

Dr Danesh says he had to start from scratch in re-learning how to walk, talk, read and write. It took months.

The path to walking began by repeatedly flexing his ankles; reading began with children's books.

"I had to go on all-fours like a cat or dog at first. I started to say easy words like, 'Come, come, come,' hundreds of times."

His message now to the brain-injured is "never give up", and he hopes the association can help him to make a video to spread this message.

HEAVY TOLL
* More than 70 New Zealanders a day suffer brain injuries from head trauma and survive.
* Six of them are moderate or severe and these people never regain all their previous functions.
* Twenty-two more are injured by strokes and a third of them die.
* Brain Injury NZ network runs awareness programmes and provides support.
* It is collecting donations in a street appeal until June 21.
* Donations can be made online at www.brain-injury.org.nz.