I was in a coma for a month, and started to come out of it only after they had planned to send me off to hospice.
On May 24, 2005, I was at Meriter Hospital in Madison Wisconsin, I was at the pushing phase of labor, and was suddenly nauseous. My wonderful husband Gary, turned to pick up the plastic pink kidney shaped little tub, and when he turned back to hand it to me, I was gone. My heart had stopped and the room flooded with people. They did CPR and after three jolts from a defibrillator, my heart started beating again. I was dead for a total of six minutes before they brought me back. At the same time all of this was happening, I’d gone into DIC, and I was bleeding out. They rushed me in to emergency surgery to deliver our son. Six minutes without oxygen was damaging to my brain, but it was devastating to his. Jarrett lived on life support for only 17 days.
When I woke up, I didn’t know anything. I had complete amnesia, I couldn’t speak or walk or eat, and lost my left field of vision in both eyes. My (again, wonderful) husband was at by bedside. I had no idea who he was, but I knew that somehow, I belonged to him and he to me, and that was enormously comforting. He reintroduced me to our daughters, Shayla, who had turned four, three days before her baby brother passed away, and Alex, who was two.
I stayed in the hospital for another month, learning to walk again. My speech was slow to return (we ended up using a metronome to teach me how to say multi-syllabic words). I’m not sure what it’s called (I called it my coma hand), but my left arm had drawn up across my chest, my hand in a fist, and they put a brace on my thumb to separate it from the fist,because I couldn’t do it myself. I always thought that blindness means darkness, so I was really confused when they tested my vision and told me I was half blind. Turns out blindness can just be not seeing what you’re looking at, or half of it anyway. I’d also lost my sense of smell, which means I also lost my sense of taste, because they are closely intertwined. My short term memory was also shot. The first time they took me outside to practice walking I was AMAZED. I’d forgotten the outside and the trees were beautiful and the leaves crunching under my feet were enchanting!
They let me visit my home several times which was really helpful in reorienting me to my life, before releasing me. One of my first nights home from the hospital, I told Gary that I didn’t know much about this Anita person everyone kept telling me I was, but I knew one thing for sure: she had really married well! My wonderful friends from all over the country (I’ve lived in a lot of places), came one at a time for a week, to take care of me and the girls so Gary could return to work. That’s how we got through the next few months.
As time passed, my memory came back in pieces. I remember that I had been a proud pessimist. Not only did I see the glass as half empty, I also saw it as too small. When those types of thoughts started to come back, I had a long talk with myself. I decided that I would dedicate myself to living the life that Jarrett had lost, and that I would become someone that would make my son proud. Amnesia for me, was a lucky thing, because I actually got to consciously pick and choose my personality, and I like myself much more than I did before.
Most of my deficits from my brain injury has resolved. I can walk and talk and enough of my vision came back that I can even drive a car. The fact that some things (senses of smell and taste, the and my limited use of my hands) is just part of who I am now.
My daughters are now almost 18 and 16 and my husband is still wonderful!
I’m so grateful that Miranda created the AFE Foundation so that all of who’ve survived this trauma are able to gather in a loving and supportive community!