I almost lost my lifeI 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”.

ambulance helicopter
ambulance helicopter courtesy of Rega

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 I almost lost my lifeweeks 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.

I almost lost my life


Comments

  1. Maria DeLanghe

    Sue kept me informed of your recovery every step of the way. Gail and I would research all of the medical terms that Sue talked about and we would discuss your recovery every day. I prayed more than I’ve prayed in a long time.
    The day it happened, I had difficulty sleeping for several nights and I just continuously told myself over and over that you would get through this because you are the strongest warrior I know and love. Pat, you are surrounded by the most loving family and it’s their love and your strength and courage that brought you through this horrific accident. You are so loved Patty Mac!! ❤💜

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Mar- Mar. Yes, I know you and Gail were tracking my progress cause Sue told me every day that you asked about me. I can just picture you two looking up the medical terms and discussing. Once I could think semi clear again I began learning a lot more about brain injury and recovery especially when I was in the rehab center. The therapist were so good about answering my questions and explaining why we we were doing what we we doing. Lots of love to you both and thanks for being there for me 24/7 from the get go.

  2. Sue

    I did not know about your accident but wondered why I had not seen any posting, as I always read your posts! I am glad you are still among us and doing remarkably well. It is certainly amazing what a human body is capable of! Keep healing so you can keep posting

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Thanks Sue. Yes I am amazed at the human body and muscle memory. I had no ability to use my left arm, but when I got home I realized I could still remember the keyboard and touch type with my left hand and play chords on my guitar.

  3. Lynne M. Spreen

    Oh my gosh, Pat, you do scare the hell out of us from time to time. I’m sorry this happened and so glad you’re on the mend. You are one tough character, aren’t you!! Sending you a big hug from one of your biggest fans.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Lynne I scared the hell out of everyone with this one. Thankfully I lost consciousness right away so don’t remember any of the harrowing scene however I would like to have a visual memory of the chopper ride over the Swiss countryside. Ha So glad to back in touch with my writing family who truly understand how important it is to be able to process all this be putting pen to paper again.

  4. Debbie

    Oh, Pat, you poor brave soul!! I’m so sorry you had to go through that experience — how frightened your loved ones must have been! — but I’m thrilled to hear you’re healing nicely. Take CARE of yourself, okay? You’re one of a kind and therefore, irreplaceable!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Yes, I think it must have been awful for them and I didn’t realize how bad it really was until after I came home and heard what happened and realized how weak I really was. In the hospital, I thought I was doing okay because I was comparing myself to the others who were really in bad shape in wheel chairs unable to walk or feed themselves. I am continuing therapy and determined to recover.

  5. Marilyn Henry

    Oh Pat! It is so good to see your written word again, and to know that you are “regaining yourself,”
    after such a harrowing accident!
    I was so worried and checked on you every time I saw your parents or sisters! You were in my nightly prayers! You are amazing! Everything you have overcome is a testament to your strength and perseverance, and the persistence and love of your family! I’m so glad that you are still here to “bask in their glow!!!”
    Keep going and BE CAREFUL! Lol

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Thanks Marilyn…your endless support for me and my family in America has brought me so much comfort especially in times of crisis. In addition to my own personal calamity, the pandemic has me so worried for loved ones. To know that you were looking in on my folks and delivering groceries so they didn’t have to go out and be exposed to the virus was so reassuring.

  6. Kathleen Pooler

    Oh no, Pat. Are you just trying to show us all your invincible spirit?? We already know you are one tough cookie! I have been wondering where you were. You were missed, I am so very sorry you’ve had to endure so much but thrilled to see you on the mend. It’s clear—nothing is going to keep you down. You are a constant source of inspiration to me. The love of family and friends plus your own fighting spirit gets you through. You are my miracle friend. Sending lots of love and hugs. Keep on healing!
    Kathleen Pooler recently posted…Writing Guest Posts as Part of My Memoir Marketing StrategyMy Profile

    1. Pat McKinzie

      I could say the exact same thing about you and I look to your words for inspiration knowing that you keep fighting everyday. May we both continue to grow stronger and find strength from one another and our stories.

  7. Wynell Eakle

    Oh, I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. I had missed your articles and passed their absence off on COVID, etc. … so wrong. You are one of the strongest women I know, and I’m so impressed and heartened by your comeback (again!). Bless your husband, doctors, and those dear family members and friends who kept you going. Life wins. YOU win. We all win because we get to have you in our lives. Sending much love.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Thanks Nell. Bless my husband, family, doctors, therapists and friend near & far

  8. Barbara Carlson

    Pat, As soon as Dick heard of your accident he texted an SOS to his sibs for prayers. Karen kept us informed of your recovery. But, reading this blog made it So Real!!! And this blog …my goodness, your writing skills have not suffered!!! Touching and Inspiring! Best wishes for a continued recovery!!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Thanks Barb. I knew that Dick and the entire Carlson clan would be rooting for me and keeping me in their prayers.

  9. David Schmelzle

    Pat, so happy to hear from you personally that you have made such great progress. As I reminded our beloved Sue, you have always been a fighter and that this was just another battle in your life. I now pray that you can soon get to the states to see your family and even get to your Summit Lake. Wishing you a continued recovery!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Dave. Our beloved Sue called me every night and even though sometimes with my vocal chords damaged from the intubation I could not speak or made no sense when I did, just the sound of her voice gave me strength and hope.

  10. Sheila Thompson

    So, so, SO glad you’re back!! My prayers continue for strength and perseverence! You have been loved!!

  11. Sharon Cu

    So glad you are back on your feet and recovering, Pat!! Nathalie kept me posted on your progress: from considering your prognosis during the rapid transport to the bigger hospital to marveling at the very cool therapies you were undergoing in rehab. I also asked my Unitarian Universalist church to send you good vibes. 🙂 Hope you continue to get stronger everyday ❤️

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Sharon I am sure you were a good sounding board for Nathalie as she tried to support me and her dad, contact doctors in Swiss hospitals, find out what was going on and keep the rest of the family updated while dealing with Covid and uncertainties with her patients own in her clinic I am deeply touched that you & your Unitarian Universalist church sent me healing vibes.

  12. Patty Carlson

    This makes me so happy to read your post, Pat. Dick and Karen kept us informed, but there’s nothing that’s better than hearing from the accident victim. I’m amazed how far you’ve improved and pray for your continued recovery.

  13. Peg Hoffmiller

    Hello Pat,

    Welcome back to your seventh life cycle. You certainly have had a more than exciting life. LOL.

    Your mom alerted me to your accident and asked for prayers. As I read your posting today, I realized your mom knew your condition was serious, but I don’t think she was aware of the complications. I remember her voice tinged with both excitement and joy as she reported progress when you moved from the hospital to the rehab center and then when she reported that Gerald was picking you up to head home.
    May God continue to enwrap you in his healing light and love.

    Peace, Peg H

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Hi Peg, What a beautiful image to think of “may God, family and friends continue to enwrap you in their healing light and love.” Whenever I talked to my mom, I felt uplifted and her calm voice which exuded peace.

  14. Tina Quick

    Pat, I just cannot tell you how much I prayed for you all day every day. I knew, if anyone could come back all the stronger for having gone through such an awful ordeal, it would be YOU! You have been blessed with timely and professional treatment and wonderful caregivers. I’m very impressed with everyone who worked with you and how dedicated they were to helping you. And your resolve to get better was phenomenal. Not a surprise to anyone who knows you. 😉
    Another blessing is your loving family. What a comfort it must have been that they were always there to support you even if it was across thousands of miles. Just keep getting better and stronger everyday. I’m so pleased to see you blogging again.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Tina, I could feel you lifting me in prayer everyday and know you that you know you have a direct line. Gerald would not let me give up and even though it must have been so frightening and the rest of my family made me believe I would recover. I will never, ever underestimate the power of love in the healing process. Thank you for your never-ending support and friendship.

    2. Pat McKinzie

      |Tina, I could feel you lifting me in prayer everyday and know that you know you have a direct line. Gerald would not let me give up and even though it must have been so frightening and the rest of my family made me believe I would recover. I will never, ever underestimate the power of love in the healing process. Thank you for your never-ending support and friendship.

  15. Laurel

    Oh Pat. This is shocking news, even in retrospect. As Sue is such an extra-ordinary (hyphenation intentional), I am wholly unsurprised that it is she who virtually tucked you in every night. Please can I adopt her? I’ll share, I promise. I’m very pleased that you are recovering well. Xxx

    1. Pat McKinzie

      She is extra-extraordinary! And it is extraordinary and touches my heart deeply that you comment and follow my blog from S. Africa.

  16. Jean

    Pat I was so glad that Sue let me know what was happening all along the way. To have something like this happen is terrifying, but to have to go through the recovery in the hospital with no family around had to be a horrible experience. I was relieved to hear that you are home. Praying for strength and recovery for you!

  17. Joan Crossen

    Oh my gosh! Pat, I had no idea! I’m so sorry you have had such an awful time. I thank the Lord that you are safe and recovering. Take care. Love, Joan

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Joan. I know that you have faced more than your own fair share of health crosses so from one survivor to another…keep fighting.Lots of love.

  18. Babette Renneberg

    Dear Patty baby,

    I was so happy to read your mail and your post! Wonderful that you are back writing, Pat! Keep on going your way.

    Herzlichste Grüße

    Bette

    1. Pat McKinzie

      |Bette, thanks for all the support you have given me over the years. Even though I probably wasn’t making any sense when you called when I was in the hospital your voice brought me so much comfort as well as reassurance from a professional in the field about what to expect from brain injury and how important the therapy was in recovering.Bises de Geneve

  19. Thomas Prochazka

    Dear Pat,
    I did not know of your accident. It is good to read that you recovered. I always respected your strong will to come back from so many times of pain.
    And I always liked to read your comments. I hope they will continue, they are a wonderful connection of ways of thinking between the US and Europe.
    Kisses
    Tom from Marburg

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Tom I am so grateful you have kept in touch and always given me a sign of hope with your liberal ideas and perspective from Germany. Hearing from you always brings back the happiest memories of when I played basketball for Marburg in the Bundesliga and learned so much about Europe from teammates.Bisous de Geneve

  20. Mary Chipman

    You amaze and inspire me, Pat. You have so much resilience and courage! I think of all that you’ve accomplished in life and feel lucky to have known you in college, even if it was briefly. Much love and hugs to you, old friend.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, we have come along way from college days and witnessed so many changes in our lifetimes…how lucky we both are to be able to record the history in our words.

  21. Bill Widolff

    I missed your weekly comments . Its a miracle what prayer can do and support from every one . Keep going. I will finish , with this. ( life is a mioror it reflects all you do look at it smiling and it smiles back to you).

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Bill. Yes it so true. Although in the hospital, when I first looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize the image reflected back at me, my one eye appeared upside down and my face was no longer symmetrical, but I recognized my grin.

    2. Pat McKinzie

      |Thanks Bill. Yes it so true. Although in the hospital, when I first looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize the image reflected back at me, my one eye appeared upside down, my face was no longer symmetrical, but I recognized my grin.

  22. Clara Freeman

    My goodness, Pat! I emerge from my self imposed hibernation to read that you’ve been in the hospital for two months! I’m so sorry you had to go through that trauma and I’m convinced that the good lord is keeping you covered and safe n HIS love and care!
    I wish only good healing and recovery from this day forward, yes, staying safe during this pandemic, notwithstanding:)
    Take good care, Pat. keep writing and sharing your voice! You look good.
    Blessings,
    Clara.

  23. Trish Wasco

    Pat — I just wanted to say “Oh, My Goodness” !!!! How traumatic for you and your family!!! I know you are a strong and determined woman and I know you will recover fully and get back to where you were — but I also know it will be a tiring struggle at times — you are, indeed, so fortunate to have such a great and loving family — and friends ! Thoughts and prayers are with you —-

  24. Renate Albers

    Dear Pat, my goodness, what a terrible time for you and your family. I was shocked at your report. But now I’m so happy, that you are back. You are a strong fighter Pat, you always have been (bicycle-accident!!!!)
    With all my heart I wish you to continue your recovery. I send you a big hug and all my love.
    Your “Oma” Renate from Marburg

    1. Pat McKinzie

      How it warms my heart to hear from you my dear Oma from Marburg. I will never ever forget you and the others that made up that magical basketball team at the foot of a castle in the heart of Deutschland. It was a very special time of me life and I have drawn on those happy memories time and again to see my way through the challenges. If I remember right you were a fighter too, so I had a strong example.

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