I almost lost my life. Again.
“This is first day of my 2nd life!” I announced to Gerald triumphantly.
“No, this is like your 7th life,” he said recounting my previous life altering accidents a rabid skunk bite in the U.S., bike accident Germany, rolling a car off the autoroute in France…
I didn’t realize how miraculous my survival was until he brought me home after nearly 2 months in the hospital. Finally he explained the harrowing fall. “You came downstairs and walked over to where I was sitting in recliner. You turned, your body went rigid and you crashed onto the right side of your head on the tile floor. Doctors still aren’t certain what precipitated the fall.
“Timber,” I thought as he recounted the gruesome details and I pictured myself as an inanimate object, a tree falling in a forest.
“I called an ambulance,” Gerald remarked “Then I turned your body on your side, so you wouldn’t choke on the blood gushing from your mouth”.
In a series of time precision miracles, my husband’s quick actions and doctors’ skills saved my life. An ambulance from Nyon Hospital 15 minutes away arrived in 10 minutes, a doctor aboard called ahead to secure a helicopter to meet us at Nyon Hospital and fly us to the CHUV Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (one of the top 10 hospitals in the world). Meanwhile a team of doctors began preparing for surgery.
Within ninety minutes of my accident, when time is so crucial, some of the world’s finest neurosurgeons carved open my skull and drained the blood. I broke my jaw, my right cheek bone, my right eye socket, and cracked open my head, but the imminent concern was alleviating pressure building in my skull. The doctors surmised that the 5 hour surgery went as well as possible, although at the time, no one knew when I would wake up again or what shape I would be in.
My body was badly damaged. Messages from the right side of my brain weren’t getting to my left side. I could squeeze my left hand, but had no strength, between my shoulder and wrist. Without realizing it, I was tucking my left arm into my body like a bird with a broken wing. I could not stand up without support – I had no balance on my left side and my left eye would not focus. I had difficulty walking without staggering, or lurching sideway.
For 2 weeks I could not move from my bed. Then I was transferred to a rehab center and started round the clock therapy. My days were filled PT, OT, neuropsych, speech therapy. I met with physical therapists, neuropsychotherapists, a psychiatrist, and neurologists to piece together my psyche and help regain my physical and cognitive skills.
After my brain surgery I could not talk,I could not walk, I could not use my left arm, I could not open the right side of my mouth. The expertise of neurosurgeons, the kindness of nurses and the passion of therapists saved my brain and helped it heal, but it was the voices of my loved ones that coaxed my soul back to life.
My baby sister and my son, both still in school, called every weekend. Friends sent text messages. Sue video called every night “to tuck me in.” Gerald listened to my rants that made no sense. While my brain was healing and I was medicated, I had irrational thoughts and hallucinations. I slept with a cell phone under my pillow convinced the nurses were stealing my possessions, that the doctors were keeping me prisoner.
My sisters, daughter and husband rotated calls making sure the last sounds I heard before drifting into a delirious, restless sleep was the soothing voice of loved one.
I am convinced it is their voices that gave me the courage to face another day of pain and provided the serenity I needed as I struggled alone during a pandemic where my husband wasn’t allowed to visit and the rest of my family was 4,000 miles away.
“Do you remember when you asked me to sing to you?” Nathalie inquired when she called after I finally was able to come home.
“I would leave my office at the clinic and go into an empty room. It was so sweet you tried to sing along with me in your croaky, raspy voice.”
I don’t consciously remember her singing but I know it was that song, that voice, that love between a mother and daughter that carried me through the darkness of another night, and lifted me into the light of day.