What Almost Dying Taught Me About Living
Everyone has a story. These stories are what create our lives. I have many stories, but there was one from which I learned my biggest lesson.
It was 2009 and things were really going along pretty well in my life. I was happily married (and still am), my kids were grown, and I was very busy in my private practice as a holistic nurse practitioner. Looking back, perhaps I was a little too busy. Life was good and I was happy. Then, in July of 2009, my life took a detour.
It was midnight and my husband, Mike, and I were driving home from a family wedding at the highway speed limit of 65 mph. As we approached a rural intersection, the driver of a large pick-up truck failed to stop at a stop sign and drove directly into our path.
We didn’t have time to avoid a high-speed collision. Upon impact, my head hit the passenger-side window hard. Despite wearing seat belts and our air bags deploying, I was knocked unconscious and remained in a coma for about three days.
My friends and family members talked to me as I lay unconscious in my hospital bed. They held my hand, prayed and waited for signs that I was waking up. As I emerged from the coma, I couldn’t walk or feed myself. It’s as if my brain couldn’t remember how to perform these simple tasks. I had difficulty understanding conversations and felt like the world was in slow motion. I couldn’t remember phone numbers, the name of the president, what year it was, or even the city in which we lived. I had trouble recognizing words and images. However, I could recognize and remember my loved ones, which was a blessing.
Despite that early inability to walk, I quickly graduated from a wheelchair to a walker and to walking with assistance. I had to relearn how to feed myself, move my body and keep my balance. I wasn’t very coordinated at first. I’m right-handed and my right side was not working well because the injury was mainly to the left side of my brain. Intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy began as soon as I regained consciousness. If I wasn’t in therapy, I was sleeping, and vice versa. My brain needed to rest in order to heal.
I don’t remember much of my ten-day hospitalization. I remember bits and pieces, and not many of them at that. I continued therapy for a few months and am truly blessed that my memory and my physical abilities quickly returned.
With therapy, love, prayers, persistence and lots of help, my recovery was nothing short of miraculous. My homework consisted of “brain exercises” that I did several times a day. I even did simple math problems in my head and other brain training, even in the shower.
Looking back, I realize having the memory loss was a blessing. I couldn’t comprehend how bad my situation was, and if I had, I know it would have been even more difficult for me. Losing memory during a traumatic period is a very protective mechanism. I can remember everything leading up to the accident, but lost about three weeks of my life afterwards. I think I would have been frustrated with myself had I realized how little I could do at first. I believe the memory loss was the universe’s way of caring for me.
The feeling I had during my recovery went beyond the feeling of being loved and cared for by other people. It seemed as though I could feel the universe protecting me and keeping me safe, giving me comfort, security, hope and a sense of well-being. It is a feeling of peace I had never before experienced. I knew at that time that everything would work out.
Just six weeks after the crash, I took my driving test again and passed—a requirement for people with severe brain injuries. I felt well enough to return to my practice on a limited basis. Initially I only saw one patient a day and restricted my activities. My practice centered on teaching and counseling. I believed this was an aspect of my practice that I could do safely. I also knew this low level of work was good therapy for me and I wanted to get my brain completely back.
It took me at least a year to develop my new normal. I am so blessed that my brain and physical abilities came back. My brain continues to improve daily as I challenge myself and create new pathways. Math still isn’t my best subject, but I have gained so much understanding and insight along the way. It’s a new way of looking at the world and my life.
I really don’t remember having any negative thoughts about the accident or my injuries. I was never upset with the kids who were driving the truck that night, and was thankful they were not hurt badly. I felt at peace during the healing process and therapy.
I have struggled with patience my entire adult life, and maybe that was my lesson here. I certainly had the opportunity to practice it! I had faith I would get my life back and things would be just as they were or even better. As I was recovering, I spent time every day imagining that I had already healed, feeling appreciation.
Today I am happier than ever. I have reinvented my career and love it. Things don’t bother me as much and I am grateful for everything—and I mean everything. This experience allows me to see life from a new perspective. I have always been a positive person, but this is different. It’s not necessary for anyone to experience a traumatic event to change the way they look at life. It’s a choice and it’s there for all of us.
I truly believe there is a reason that I survived and got a second chance at life that night. I also believe there is a reason I recovered so well and so quickly. There is a reason for my peace and feeling of being totally cared for.
I believe that, in meditation, we can access that inner guidance we all have; if we are still enough, we can hear the answers to questions we ask. I asked why I survived and recovered so well. The answer that came to me was simple: I had to prove it could be done; not just for me, but to inspire and give hope to others.
I am grateful to know the blessings of the power of belief, prayer, love and gratitude. I am forever grateful for all those who prayed for me when I was in the hospital. I have always been mindful of the tremendous healing power within each of us, and now I have first-hand experience.
This is why I am so passionate about helping others have the life they want. Life is too short to not go for it. I’ve learned that even if the odds are against us, we must believe we can have it, whatever it is.
My recovery was nothing short of remarkable, and I am thankful every day for my life. I know I am not the only person to have experienced this type of healing. I have read countless stories of people who survived the odds against cancer, terrible accidents and other life-threatening events. I am honored to be among them.
Thank you for sharing this story, Bonnie! I still remember the first time I spoke to you – I would have never known that this happened. You have such a mighty resilience to your spirit, and now we know why. Thank you for being an inspiration!
Thank you for the kind words Vironika. I am truly blessed and happy to share my story. I hope it may help others believe anything is possible. We all develop “new normals” many times in our lives, it’s a part of our journey. 🙂
“New normals” …I love that! We most certainly do, for better or for worse. Perhaps being prodded by circumstance to stand up and choose “for better” is a greater gift than the gift of luck or opportunity!